Chancellor George Blumenthal reveals a LEED plaque in recognition of Cowell Dining Hall’s certification as a green building. The presentation of the plaque was part of the Sustainability and Resource Fair on Monday. Photo by Rosanna van Straten.

UC Santa Cruz is the 11th “greenest” college in the nation, according to a ranking released by the Sierra Club in August. On Monday, the university held the first ever Sustainability and Resource Fair at Cowell College.

The event, which was sponsored by the Sustainability Office, featured over 30 campus environmental organizations and a presentation by Chancellor George Blumenthal, who officially declared the new Cowell Dining Hall a silver LEED-certified green building. LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification and has four different levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

Blumenthal is the first UCSC chancellor to declare sustainability a priority in his two-year plan. The crowd listened as he explained the importance of sustainability on the UCSC campus.

“It is truly a mark of distinction, nationwide and worldwide,” he said. “It says something about who we are and what we are as a campus.”

Cowell Dining Hall is the second building on campus to be LEED-certified, and one of the 12,000 LEED-certified buildings in the country. Steps toward achieving certification included maximizing natural light, conserving water, minimizing and composting waste, using computerized ovens to save energy and installing completely recycled and recyclable carpet and countertops.

The next campus buildings to be LEED-certified include several buildings at Porter, the biomedical sciences facility and the Student Health Center.

The crowd cheered when Blumenthal announced news about the McHenry Library renovations, which will feature an environmentally-friendly addition.

“When the new section of the library opens, there will even be solar panels on the roof,” Blumenthal said.

The Sustainability and Resource Fair also served as the kick-off for the COOL Campus Competition, a three-week event with 40 universities competing to reduce their resource consumption. UCSC is adding an inter-college aspect to the competition, with Kresge, Porter, Cowell and Stevenson each vying for the title of the most energy-efficient.

The competition is sponsored by the Student Environmental Organization, the Green Campus Group and the Sustainability Office.

Cameron Fields, one of the event’s main organizers, described the competition process, as well as the outreach effort, intended to promote participation.

“Meters have been installed in each of the four colleges to measure their water and electricity usage,” Fields said, “and students can check online to see how they are doing, as it updates their electricity usage live and their water usage weekly. We’ve been tabling at colleges, knocking on students’ doors and posting flyers to try to get students involved.”

The installation of the meters cost the school approximately $17,000 — including the cost of labor and the setting up the website. Fields said that, although the cost is high, the awareness that could come as a result of this competition will outweigh the expense.

“As this is a pilot event, it’s the first time we are doing something like this, [and] we’ll have to see how it goes,” Fields said. “But I feel really positive about it, and students seem to as well. Raffles will be held for the next three weeks as the competition continues. Students can win iPods and other gadgets.”

Blumenthal expressed his intent to further UCSC’s sustainable and environmentally friendly reputation and reiterated the positive effects that the LEED certification will have in the future.

“Thirty-two percent less lighting will be used, due to computerized lights that adjust as the light changes in the building,” he said, “and 62 percent less heating.”