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Cool Campus Challenge: A push toward carbon neutrality

When the University of California pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025, nobody said it would be easy. At the outset, everyone agreed that the Carbon Neutrality Initiative would require all hands on deck from staff, faculty and students alike to make its ambitious goal a reality.

“We’re on our way to becoming the very first university system to wipe out our carbon footprint for good,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “It’s a daring goal, and one that will take both individual and collective action to make happen. Part of that is building awareness about easy steps each of us can take to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Launching Oct. 6 and running through Dec. 10, the first Cool Campus Challenge aims to get everyone across the UC system on board with the carbon neutrality effort with a bit of friendly competition to get things moving. During the 10-week contest, UC faculty, staff and students will be challenged to take steps to reduce their carbon footprints using an online tool to track their activity and earn points for their campus. The reward? Bragging rights for the winning campus and progress toward carbon neutrality for the university as a whole.

At UCOP, we will have three division-based teams:

  • Blue: Led by President Napolitano, this team will consist of the President’s Immediate Office; Office of the General Counsel; Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services; Academic Senate, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Lab Management, Academic Affairs, External Relations, UC Health and the Secretary to the Regents.
  • Gold: CFO Nathan Brostrom will lead the CFO Division, Office of the Chief Investment Officer and UCPath.
  • White: Consisting of the COO Division, the White team will be led by COO Rachael Nava.

Who’s the coolest?

Modeled on the Cool California Cities Challenge, which gives Californians the tools they need to take action to protect the climate and keep California cool, the Cool Campus Challenge focuses on actions that individuals can take to put their campus on track to reach carbon neutrality.

Each week, the Cool Campus Challenge will highlight an important sustainability theme, from food waste to lighting to transportation. To earn points for their campuses, participants will make pledges and take actions to directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase awareness about climate disruption, and record their actions on the Cool Campus Challenge website to earn points for their school. Proud participants are encouraged to show off their efforts on social media (and egg on their competition) with the hashtag #UCool.

Cool in action

In many cases, the activities in the challenge will be simple things that a lot of us already do: turning off lights when you leave a room, taking public transportation, composting food waste. Others may require extra thought or effort: replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs or eliminating single-use items from your life.

Participants can also earn bonus points for completing actions within a time limit or for taking new and creative actions beyond those suggested in the challenge.

While the challenge will be more fun and perhaps even more productive in teams, it also can be a great showcase for the power of individuals to make a difference.

At the end of the contest, the campus with the highest point count will be crowned the “Coolest UC Campus.” At OP, the winning team will have a party and receive a trophy, as will the individual winner. Top point-getters on the non-winning teams will also get a prize.

Find out more and sign up to compete on the Cool Campus Challenge website.

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