OAKLAND, CA — The University of California has stepped up its sustainability policy systemwide by setting higher green standards for food service operations and building throughout its 10 campuses, five medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

UC's Policy on Sustainable Practices (pdf) sets a high bar for environmental performance in new construction, renovation and siting of buildings, land use, energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas reduction, general and electronics equipment recycling, waste reduction, food service, purchasing and other operations related to the university's facilities.

Revisions in the policy's building provisions by the UC Regents include requirements that new structures be designed to the equivalent of at least silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards maintained by the U.S. Green Building Council -- and that campuses strive to achieve at least a LEED-Gold rating for their new building.

Under pressure from students -- 10,000 sent in postcards demanding greener food choices at their campuses -- the UC Regents also approved sweeping changes in food service operations to require that:

  • By 2020, at least 20 percent of all food purchased by the university system be designated as sustainable as defined by the food service work group based on third-party certifications for organic, locally-grown and other measures.
  • At least one dining facility at each UC site must be certified as a green business by a certification program operated by the city or county housing the UC facility, Green Seal or the Green Restaurant Association.
  • Each campus must provide students with educational materials about sustainable food products and food service business practices.
  • Campus departments, organizations, groups and individuals must engage in activities with their surrounding community in support of common goals related to sustainability.

A student leader of the sustainable food campaign, Hai Vo of University of California, Irvine, was honored for efforts by the Earth Island Institute. He received a Brower Youth Award from the institute this week.

The new UC food service policy was developed over the past year. According to UC, a systemwide group of more than 40 people participating in the process and included input from the food operations units for each campus and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

The UC system's sustainability efforts are detailed at www.universityofcalifornia.edu/sustainability.

Sather Gate at the University of California's Berkeley Campus -- Image courtesy of the University of California