Tucked between tall redwoods, the Bike Co-op allows students to go green without spending green. Photo by Devika Agarwal.
Tucked between tall redwoods, the Bike Co-op allows students to go green without spending green. Photo by Devika Agarwal.
The transition from trash compactors to compost bins has resulted in 30 tons of waste converted into fertile organic matter. Photo by Devika Agarwal.
The transition from trash compactors to compost bins has resulted in 30 tons of waste converted into fertile organic matter. Photo by Devika Agarwal.
The Farm produces a bounty of fresh produce, available to all community members. Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.
The Farm produces a bounty of fresh produce, available to all community members. Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.

All across the UC Santa Cruz campus, student and university organizations alike are working in unison to reduce carbon footprints, lead sustainable lives and define exactly what it means to go green.

UCSC has a history of being a leading university in the effort for sustainable campus life. While organizations on campus are consciously pushing for green living, it is easy to forget what UCSC has already accomplished and how exactly students can get involved.

“At UCSC, we’re about sustainability,” said Candy Berlin, program coordinator for UCSC Dining Services.

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voted UCSC its sixth-largest green power purchaser among campuses across the country. And in August, Sierra magazine named UCSC seventh on their list of top 10 greenest colleges in the nation.

“There are many ways that students can get involved in this sustainability movement,” said Tim Galarneau, food systems education and research program specialist. “It is important to get involved and to know how to.”

Programs at UCSC like the Bike Co-op and the Farm work in unison to reduce UCSC’s carbon footprint. This, coupled with the continued efforts of Dining Services to advocate zero-waste, has helped promote the green movement to students across the campus and community.

Green Dining

“We are considered one of the leaders in college and university food service for sustainability,” Berlin said.

For years, UCSC has been taking initiatives to create a greener dining program on campus. The dining halls were certified as “green businesses” by the Monterey Bay Area Green Businesses Program, administered by the City of Santa Cruz. In November 2007, the city granted green certifications to the Porter/Kresge and Cowell/Stevenson dining halls, as well as University Catering.

In September 2008, Dining Services decided to remove trays from the dining halls in an attempt to diminish food waste and limit extra water usage.

Since the trays were taken away, UCSC has saved over 1 million gallons of water, and cut the ounces of food waste per plate nearly in half. The most recent measurement, which Dining Services calls a “food audit,” showed that food waste had been reduced from 4 to 2.3 ounces per plate.

“It’s much more than we expected, and after a year of being trayless we can measure it pretty well,” Berlin said.

Amanda Kimball, a third-year from Cowell, was one of the many students who experienced the transition to trayless dining.

“Without a tray, you can’t just grab whatever you want,” Kimball said. “It makes you think about what you can eat, not what you want to eat.”

With the UCSC dining halls serving over 23,000 meals a day, Dining Services has recently taken action in an effort to compost. All of the trash compactors have been converted to compost compactors, leading to approximately 30 tons of waste per week being hauled to Watsonville for composting.

In addition, the dining halls have begun to actively check with vendors to make sure that their packaging and paper goods — cups, cutlery, to-go containers — are all biodegradable.

“The need for trash cans will be really reduced,” Berlin said, “because literally everything will be either recyclable or compostable. That’s our goal.”

In 2004, UCSC formed the Food Systems Working Group (FSWG), a coalition made up of students, staff, faculty and community members that work together to improve the campus’s food system.

“Our purchasing preferences are to buy local, buy certified organic, buy direct and buy fair-trade,” said Scott Berlin, director of Dining Services.

A recent UC-wide mandate requires that every campus purchase a minimum of 20 percent of its food organically.

Not only is UCSC making efforts to exceed the 20-percent mandate in organic purchasing — Dining Services currently purchases about 28 percent organic — programs are being created to diminish the campus’s carbon footprint.

Dining Services plans to coordinate with individual colleges to create “Beefless Days,” on which one of the dining halls on campus will cut its beef and meat dishes. In addition, Dining is working toward having every Monday be “meatless” in an attempt to make students more aware of the delicious options of vegetarian dining.

By changing the way we eat and, more importantly, the way we think about what we eat, UCSC’s Dining Services department is making a vigilant and consistent effort to make meal options appealing to students in both taste and sustainability.

Bike Co-op

As people become more aware of what an impact carbon emissions from automobiles have, they beginning to cut back on their driving. In spring 2008, the volume of traffic through UCSC’s two campus entrances was reduced more than 16 percent since spring 2005. A count in October 2008 revealed that there are more than 1,200 bicycle riders per day on campus — an increase of more than 50 percent from just last spring.

But sometimes the green movement requires the kind of “green” that not all students have — bikes are expensive to buy and maintain. The Bike Co-op poses a solution.

A campus resource that allows students and faculty to rent bikes to ride around campus, the UCSC Bike Co-op is a full-service bike shop that is owned and operated by both students and members of the Santa Cruz community, all in an effort to manage carbon emissions and campuswide traffic conditions. It’s been serving the UCSC community for 16 years and has been an essential asset in the efforts toward sustainability.

According to UCSC student Hunter Veloz, a core member who has been with the co-op the longest, they provide service to approximately 2,000 students per quarter.

The co-op has core members that keep it running smoothly, but always provides a place for students to get some volunteering in. It even has programs that allow people to take care of community service hours through volunteering.

“We are always accepting volunteers,” Veloz said. “Generally we see anywhere from 5 to 15 volunteers per quarter.”

The co-op not only repairs bikes for students who already own them, but also rents out and sells bikes to students who don’t. “All of the bikes to rent and sell are donated,” Veloz said.

“I love bikes and the bike community,” said fourth-year Chris Loomis, a core member who has been with the co-op since he started at UCSC. “I have been able to learn everything about bikes and I like helping.”

The accessible core members make the Bike Co-op not only a place for sustainability, but a great place for community.

“It is so great to be involved on campus and to support the sustainability effort,” Veloz said.

The Bike Co-op wants to get students out on the roads, on their bikes, and on their way to sustainable living.

Harvesting Green Initiatives

Alan Chadwick became a pioneer of campuswide gardening when he encouraged his students to consider farming as a way of learning, and even a way of life. When students began skipping class to spend time in the garden with Chadwick, it was clear that the university needed to institutionalize the idea of gardening on campus.

The Alan Chadwick Garden, an organic garden established near Crown and Merrill colleges, can still be found today. Chadwick’s innovations led to the implementation of campus resources such as the Farm and the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS).

“Currently we run 130-plus member family called Community-Supported Agriculture,” specialist Galarneau said.

Members can come to the Farm every week on either Tuesday or Friday to pick up a box of fresh organic produce. Students can even use their meal plans and Flexi dollars for a box of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farm.

There are currently about 30 students working as interns at the Farm. They not only work with the land, but also help to promote the farm-to-college movement at UCSC. About 300 universities are currently part of the farm-to-college effort. The values of farm-to-college are based around promoting relationships between institutions and regional food and farming sectors.

“Farm-to-college came about with the recognition that in our current food system there is a lot of disconnect between the eaters, the students, the producers and the farmers,” Galarneau said.
UCSC has been a major player in the sustainability movement for quite some time. And now the campus is continuing this movement in an effort to incorporate environmental preservation into students’ daily lives.

“We need to help lead the way the most, because of the size of our campus,” Galarneau said.

Through the Bike Co-op, on-campus farming, and the dining hall’s increasing efforts to promote sustainability, UCSC students can trust that the campus is doing its part.

“Other universities are even seeking us out for help in their green movements,” Candy Berlin said.