UCSF Sustainability Stories

Kim LaPean

The Landscapes We Love

This story was originally shared in the Finance & Administrative Services internal newsletter, One Good Thing.

This week we talked with UCSF Sustainability Director Gail Lee about a new 2025 Carbon Neutrality campaign featuring landscapes we love.

Tell us about the new “Yes” campaign in support of the University of California’s 2025 Carbon Neutrality goal.
When I first started my job as Sustainability Director in 2010, I signed up for daily emails of environmental health news. Ten years later, I couldn’t even open the emails anymore, there was too much doom and gloom. People feel overwhelmed and powerless to help. To help us all see past the negatives and understand how we can each contribute, we created an information campaign focused on what people care about. Here in the Bay Area, we are lucky to have so many beautiful natural assets. Sky, water, flowers, redwoods and famous landmarks. The landscapes we love are dying. We lost a big redwood tree at Mt Sutro. Redwoods rely on fog drip, and we aren’t getting as much fog drip. We are facing devastating wildfires and drought. What can we do to protect the beautiful landscapes we love? We asked the creative team to think of positive images and they choose these landscapes for the resulting campaign. See and download all five Zoom background images here.

What stands in the way of achieving our climate goals?
We don’t have a lot of time. We aren’t moving fast enough. A big challenge we face at UCSF is growing responsibly. Every new building creates new energy demands, and we have a responsibility to build these new structures to operate as efficiently as possible – which may come at a higher upfront cost but is the right thing to do. We need to have a clean energy supply with carbon-free power and move completely away from natural gas. It’s a tall order given UCSF’s reliance on the Parnassus Heights Central Power Plant. However, strategies and changes are being discussed and planned.

Fortunately, all new buildings are slated to be energy efficient and LEED Gold, which is progress.

At the same time, when UCSF expands, we can undertake more research, provide more patient care and save more lives. We are working to find the right balance between investing to reduce our environmental and global health impact and investing to serve our research and patient care mission.