UCSF Sustainability Stories

Spotlight on Sustainability:  Best Practices from UCSF Green Champion Adele Dow

Adele Dow

Adele Dow, facility manager at the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building and Mount Zion Cancer Research Building, is a true UCSF green ambassador. Recently nominated for the new UCSF Sustainability Award, which recognizes staff, students, faculty and teams for their contributions to sustainability at UCSF, she has been behind the scene for years promoting sustainable practices.  Below we highlight some of the successes.

Host a Going Green Event

Back in 2006, she got started by hosting a “Going Green at UCSF”, a mini eco-fair where faculty, staff and students gathered for lunch in the courtyard of the UCSF Mount Zion Cancer Research Building to learn more about what UCSF and Bay Area organizations were doing to help the environment.
A team of volunteers from the building assisted in planning and organizing this event.  One employee made a poster to raise awareness about wasted paper from unclaimed printer and copier jobs and to encourage employees to use both sides of the paper.  The event also included a sustainable zero waste lunch;  everything not eaten was either composted or recycled. 

Eliminating Bottled Water

Back in 2007, Dow decided to tackle eliminating bottled water from break rooms. At the Mount Zion Cancer Research Building.  The ultimate solution involved working with facilities management to install one central filter in the basement that filters water feeding drinking fountains on each floor.
The Chief Engineer in the building was extremely supportive of this initiative.  He identified the type of filters that would work best in this application.  He also procured and installed tall gooseneck spouts on the water fountains making it easier to fill up re-usable water bottles.
Departments can now explore installation of individual filters on selected sinks to dispense filtered drinking water for a fraction of the cost of bottled water.  UCSF has a favorable pricing contract with Arrowhead for water filters.

New Employee Orientation

One of the unique methods Dow employs to ensure that new employees know about the recycling and composting programs in the buildings is to require attendance at a brief building orientation prior to activating building access on the employee ID badge. Dow initially established this meeting as a way to ensure compliance with requirements to inform employees of the emergency exit plan and increase awareness of building security protocols.  Recognizing that new employees often have questions about composting and recycling, Dow includes these topics as an essential component of the briefings.

Waste Reduction

With support from UCSF’s Refuse & Recycling Program, Dow has successfully implemented both recycling and composting systems in two buildings.  Any department can set up a recycling system and request support by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Only selected buildings have composting at this time. 


“The sustainability efforts have just grown leaps and bounds,” explained Dow.  And while she is the one who has brought up the issues, she stressed the importance of giving people a forum to express their concerns.  She has used SurveyMonkey and e-mail announcements to keep staff posted on new developments and allow them the opportunity to provide feedback and input.

Dow has been successful at articulating the link between health and sustainability.  From her perspective, as a health services campus with a mission to advance health world wide, UCSF must look at sustainability.  “Sustainability and health are tightly linked, like two fingers on the same hand.”

“Everywhere UCSF has a footprint, we need to be sure it is a green footprint,” concluded Dow.

Story:  Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact