UCSF Sustainability Stories


Ana Toepel and Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, February 2021


Six Ways UCSF Made Fiscal Year 2020 a Great Year for Sustainability

UCSF recently completed its 11th Annual Sustainability Report for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 (FY20). Though this year was unlike any other in terms of the challenges presented by COVID-19, UCSF didn’t lose sight of its sustainability goals. Despite the difficult year, the Office of Sustainability has many accomplishments worthy of highlighting, including a new solar photovoltaic (PV) installation and achieving the second-highest waste diversion rate in the UC system.

Be sure and download the infographic, “UCSF Office of Sustainability 2020 Annual Report,” which summarizes UCSF’s sustainability accomplishments for FY20, and visit UCOP’s data dashboard for UCSF campus and medical center.

Below we spotlight six of UCSF’s sustainability achievements over the past fiscal year.

#1 UCSF Tackled Carbon Emissions

In FY20 UCSF took several actions that support its goal of being carbon neutral by 2025:

  • UCSF created a new Carbon Offset Task Force to advise the Office of Sustainability on its selection of quality offsets. The task force includes faculty and representatives from many different departments at the university.
  • UCSF began installation of a 244-kW solar array on its Gateway Medical Building to power the adjacent Precision Cancer Medicine Building (PCMB); it is expected to produce 350,000 kWh of carbon-free electricity each year.
  • The UCSF community reduced its single occupancy vehicle (SOV) rate to 24.4% (% of commuters driving to work alone), already surpassing UC’s goal of no more than 30% by 2050.
  • The Office of Sustainability Adopt a Spot competition saved 28,744 kWh of electricity at UCSF labs in just six weeks, equivalent to the carbon emissions of burning more than 2,200 gallons of fossil fuels.
  • UCSF Health participated in the Cool Food Pledge and reduced the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its food service offerings by 13.9% when compared to the FY17 baseline.
#2 UCSF’s Precision Cancer Medicine Building Became LEED Gold- Certified

The UCSF Bakar Precision Cancer Medicine Building (PCMB) earned LEED Gold certification, the second highest rating level for green building. This new building, which first partially opened to patients in June 2019, added 170K square feet to UCSF’s already existing 2.5M square feet of LEED-certified buildings. The building uses 100% filtered outside air, PVC-free materials, and furnishings without Red-List chemicals – and incorporates solar energy from solar panels installed on the adjacent Gateway Medical Building.

#3 UCSF Continued to March Toward Zero Waste

During FY20 UCSF kept its Zero Waste goal front and center, becoming the 2nd best performing campus in the UC system in terms of its waste diversion rate.

The amount of waste produced took a dip in FY20, and the diversion rate for UCSF Campus held steady at 78-79%. (90% is considered Zero Waste.) The fact that UCSF has kept its diversion rate up is a huge success considering the dire state of recycling markets. The success is due in part to excellent efforts by UCSF Recycling’s team to provide education and encouragement to the UCSF community to separate waste correctly.
UCSF Health budgeted and hired two limited-appointment staff to work with Hospitality and train clinical staff, focused on improving waste sorting in the Peri-Operative area and patient-care areas. Their goal is to reach a 50% diversion rate and reduction of total waste per patient day.

#4 UCSF Students Activated for Planetary Health

FY20 was full of actions by UCSF students that supported the university’s commitment to connect climate change and health.

A group of UCSF medical students developed the Planetary Health Justice Report Card, which enables students to evaluate their universities on how well they integrate planetary health into their programs. The students scored UCSF (awarding it a B overall) and inspired other students nationwide to create report cards for their universities.

In the Climate Change and Health Mini Course, students from UCSF’s School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy explored what health professionals should know and do about climate change, sustainability, and health. The students made an inspiring video that shares the actions they will take as health professionals.

Two School of Dentistry graduate students, Claire Skach and Jerry Liu, received the UCSF Sustainability Award in the team category for developing new standards for proper waste management in the dental school simulation (SIM) labs.

Medical students from UCSF and the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program joined the San Francisco Youth-led Climate March inspired by Greta Thunberg’s call to action. The students also joined local physicians in founding a group called Climate Health Now.

#5 UCSF Was Recognized for Sustainability Leadership

In FY20 UCSF received four awards for its sustainability achievements:

Additionally, UC Health (including UCSF Health) was named a 2020 Climate Champion of the Health Care Climate Challenge by Health Care Without Harm, receiving a Gold designation for both Renewable Energy and Climate Leadership.

#6: UCSF Engaged the Community in Sustainability Efforts

The Office of Sustainability rose to the challenge of engaging the UCSF community virtually in FY20, with offerings such as:

Please go to the 2020 UC Annual Sustainability Report to read more about UCSF accomplishments and achievements of the other nine UC campuses, five UC Health systems, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Agriculture and National Resources.