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UC campuses launch programs to promote sustainable practices

John Cook doesn’t go anywhere without his iPad, and he wants everyone at UC Riverside to do the same some day.

One of his goals as sustainability coordinator at UC Riverside is to cut paper use on campus. He’s taken that step himself by using his tablet for taking notes, reading reports and giving presentations.

If he had the funding, Cook would offer tablets to departments on campus in exchange for turning in a printer as a way to encourage paperless offices. It’s an idea that’s part of a green office program being planned at UC Riverside, which is one of seven UC campuses that have or are implementing similar programs to encourage sustainable workplace practices.

Green office programs are designed to help campus departments identify and employ workplace practices that cut the use of energy and other resources, which also leads to cost savings and helps UC meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the first university green office programs in the country and the first at UC was started at Berkeley in 2009. UC Santa Barbara started its program just after Berkeley’s,  and initiatives are in place or beginning at UC San Francisco, UCLA and UC Santa Cruz, which just certified its first office. UC Davis is piloting a program now, and UC Riverside will be testing its program this fall.

UC Berkeley’s Green Certification program was conceived to provide a structure for responding to questions commonly asked by departments about best practices, said Lisa McNeilly, director of the campus Office of Sustainability.

“We were getting similar requests from multiple places, so this was a good tool to answer those requests,” McNeilly said.

UC Berkeley’s program offers guidance on energy use, waste, transportation, purchasing and other areas to help offices create a “green team” of department leaders and fulfill a checklist of 30 criteria for certification, which last for two years. There are nine Berkeley departments with current certifications and 11 others that were certified but have not renewed. Berkeley also offers a program that certifies events on campus as green.

“Don’t think it’s too daunting. That’s one of the biggest lessons,” said Ian Baldridge, a senior technician at UC Berkeley’s Environmental Health & Safety Department, which was recertified as green this year. “It’s really easy for departments to do.”

Many of the items on the checklist, such as recycling, are common in offices, so the adjustments to become green certified can be minor, Baldridge said.

Having a formal program also provides a framework for offices that already are conserving to be more sustainable. It also helps build teamwork because the entire staff must be involved.

“With the checklist, you have something visual, and it gave us a sense of purpose to our mission,” said Baldridge, who is chair of his department’s sustainability committee.

Green office programs at other UC campuses are similar. In general, they offer outreach, surveys of how a department and its occupants use resources, and education on how to become more sustainable. There’s no data on how beneficial these programs are at UC, but anything that helps cut energy use and reduce waste will make campuses greener and cut carbon emissions.

For Harry Mok’s full story, go to the UC Newsroom website.

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