UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer & Jennifer Armenta, Green Impact, October 2015

USCF’s Academic Senate Sustainability Committee Announces a New Chair

Senate ImageThe Academic Senate Sustainability Committee provides a consultative and advisory role to USCF’s administration regarding sustainability and curriculum matters. Dr. Torsten Wittmann, UCSF Associate Professor, Cell & Tissue Biology, was just announced as the new Academic Senate Sustainability Committee Chair. Dr. Wittmann is excited about the future and how to continue UCSF’s mission as a driving force in improving sustainability practices and advancing healthcare worldwide. Below we highlight some of the Committee’s accomplishments to date, as well as discuss its future direction.

The Sustainability Committee got its start in 2007 as the Academic Senate Sustainability Task Force, which recommended to then Chancellor Bishop that he create the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, as well as create the Office of Sustainability and a UCSF sustainability Website. After several years, the task force became a permanent standing committee. Dr. Greenblatt, Professor, UCSF School of Pharmacy and outgoing Chair of the Sustainability Committee, shared, “UCSF is the first campus to have a Senate Committee on sustainability, which shows our commitment to the environment, sustainability and UCSF’s health goals. I, like most of the members of the committee, volunteered for it because we think that issues of the environment are important and want to make a difference.”

UCSF Academic Senate Sustainability Committee: Role and Accomplishments

GreenblattThe Academic Senate is a function of UC’s joint governance and it is a partner to the administration. According to Greenblatt, in terms of sustainability, the senate plays five key roles:

  • Identifies new issues that may impact on any aspect of sustainability and either initiating action or recommending it;
  • Sets priorities for senate funds;
  • Assesses and selects awards and UCOP student and faculty project funds;
  • Reviews and approves sustainability curricula with the Committee on Courses of Instruction; and
  • Participates in campus and UCOP advisory committees on sustainability.

In just a few years, under Greenblat’s leadership, the Committee has worked hard to accomplish its goals. It has tackled a range of issues, including:

  • Incorporating sustainability into the UCSF curriculum; under the leadership of Dr. Tom Newman, the Committee’s first chair,
  • Passing a resolution calling on UCSF food services to phase out procurement of meat produced with the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics and urging all University of California campuses to do the same; and
  • Introducing a resolution on divestment from fossil fuels, which while raising awareness of the issue and sparking discussion, did not get passed.

The Committee has also sponsored a series of awards, including the UCSF Green Challenge Award, to motivate the UCSF community to think out of the box and to inspire new sustainability ideas. It is also involved in the selection of some of the President’s initiative funds, including the Global Food Initiative and the Carbon Neutrality Awards.

Dr. Torsten Wittmann Takes over as Chair

TorstenDr. Wittmann, UCSF Associate Professor, Cell & Tissue Biology and the new Sustainability Committee Chair, will continue to further the Committee’s mission, but explained that he would like to see more USCF groups working together to have a greater impact. He explained, “As we are a relatively new committee, we are still finding our identity within the UCSF system. My vision for the coming year is to make our work more visible and integrated with other UCSF sustainability efforts.” His two main goals for the future are to increase internal communication and decrease waste generation. He hopes to have better communication between the Academic Senate, faculty, administration and facilities, so everyone working on sustainability can work together.

He continued, “I’m impressed how UCSF is creating a really great recycling and composting program.”  But he also feels very strongly about the amount of waste that is generated on campus and is motivated to do things better. “I am a basic cell biologist and it is shocking how much plastic trash we generate in the lab, how much of it is unnecessary and how little of it ends up being recycled. I am sure the same is true for the Medical Center. Plastic is not good for the environment or the health of the human population. It should be well within UCSF’s mission to do something about that.”

“I think we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Even though we have just emerged from the hottest summer on record and the most destructive wildfire season in California history, sustainability is not a priority for many UCSF faculty and staff,” Dr. Wittmann expressed. But he is also hopeful because there is a huge group of people at UCSF, including faculty, staff, and students, who can be better utilized to really create change. “Everybody at UCSF should know about sustainability. They should be able to figure out what goes in the recycling bin and what doesn’t, and should be happy and proud to do so.”

Click HERE to learn more about the Academic Senate Committee, their mission and accomplishments.

Story by Green Impact