2-ai-Abby-Reyes-320x400Dear Colleagues,

It’s an exciting time for sustainability at UCI. Our campus provides leadership in President Janet Napolitano’s effort to bring the University of California system to carbon neutrality by 2025. Through the Global Climate Leadership Council, the body that implements the Carbon Neutrality Initiative systemwide, our Sustainability Initiative has focused on student, faculty and staff engagement by co-creating awards, fellowships, competitions, training and research summits. During this academic year, even more projects will continue to roll out.

I am delighted to share with you some of the great work and fun opportunities we have on campus to help build a more sustainable future.

UCI is currently leading the Cool Campus Challenge, a friendly competition taking place until Thursday, Dec. 10, to see which UC campus has the smallest eco-footprint and the largest pledge toward carbon neutrality. I encourage you to join this excellent challenge and show your campus pride by taking steps to build community and reduce your carbon footprint.

Recently, Steven Allison, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, received the Climate Action Champion Award, a $25,000 prize that he will use to pilot an integrated training program for graduate students with career interests in climate sustainability. The award, created by President Napolitano, is granted to one faculty member from each UC campus for the 2015-16 academic year.

Students in the program will be selected from across our campus and trained to translate big ideas into tangible and effective climate solutions. By participating in Allison’s program, students will learn transferable skills in data analysis, communication and professional development that are essential for climate-related careers, and community partners will provide the students with summer internships. In return, our partners will benefit from access to well-trained graduates ready to tackle climate-related challenges. Congratulations to Professor Allison!

Additional UCI faculty members are taking action through the UC Climate Solutions Group. President Napolitano convened the 10-campus group leading up to the intergovernmental climate talks in Paris this month. Its report identifies the top 10 solutions that “bend the curve” toward carbon neutrality. Back here at home, faculty members interested in exploring possible roles UCI could play in regional climate resilience collaborations are invited to attend the Sustainability Initiative’s fall faculty meeting Dec. 11 (11 a.m. in the Engineering Hall colloquia room) – all disciplines welcome, as climate action solutions are needed from every sector. And at the very local level, we also encourage faculty, staff and students to get involved in updating our campus Climate Action Plan; look for opportunities to engage this winter and spring.

In addition, I am happy to share that seven UCI students have received Climate & Food Student Fellowships. They’re participating in on-campus internships as part of the UC Global Food and Carbon Neutrality initiatives. Our students are engaged in projects such as strengthening UCI’s community gardens as urban agriculture teaching sites and preparing an analysis of current climate planning, activism and action in Orange and Riverside counties. Another batch of undergraduates will begin for-credit internships this winter that use the campus as a living laboratory of sustainability.

A large part of sustainability involves the way we grow, prepare and consume food. Last month, UCI launched a Web-based portal on food action. It’s a one-stop calendar of the events and opportunities offered by UCI faculty, students and staff that support the underlying goals of President Napolitano’s Global Food Initiative, which aims to unite the UC community across a wide range of disciplines to work toward putting the world on a path to sustainability and enabling it to nutritiously feed everyone. At UCI, we are providing systemwide leadership on zero-waste dining facilities, and several of our centers, institutes and initiatives produce scholarly work related to food sustainability and security. Check out this short video to learn more.

Additionally, our student leaders are addressing campus food security by hosting a statewide summit in January and participating in practical classes on sustainable food choices and cooking. For example, the Sustainability Initiative is hosting a winter seed-to-plate workshop series open to all faculty and staff as well as community members regarding sustainable and just food production and hands-on cooking skills.

As you can see, there are many ways to engage in UCI’s sustainability efforts. In this work, we ask with curiosity: What will it take to create the new systems and cultures of a life-sustaining society? Borrowing from our students’ ideas and practices, our hunch is that it takes everyone, everywhere, with no one left behind. I would add that it has to be fun and feel like home. I hope you will take part in our programs and come with us in the journey of creating that expanded sense of home together.


Abigail Reyes
UCI Sustainability Initiative Director