In 2020, UC Santa Barbara took several sustainability actions that also contribute to positive human health outcomes.

For example, it signed a pledge through the Center for Environmental Health to commit to purchasing safer furniture products to protect the health of the community and the global environment. The campus also replaced nearly all of its gas-powered grounds tools with electric models. This switch not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but helps mitigate workers’ respiratory health issues by reducing the inhalation of exhaust, toxins and dust. 

In spring 2020, UC Santa Barbara’s Edible Campus Program Student Farm (a partnership of the Associated Students Department of Public Worms, Associated Students Food Bank and the Sustainability Program) was determined to be an essential service and maintained operations through the COVID-19 pandemic. Portola Dining Commons also launched a food recovery program managed by Housing, Dining, and Auxiliary Enterprises. 

Additionally, Santa Barbara’s total operational greenhouse gas emissions were about 20% below 1990 levels, despite a near doubling in square footage. The campus expects to see its operational greenhouse gas emissions drop almost 50% in the upcoming year as it procures more clean electricity. In July 2020, UC Santa Barbara joined the UC Clean Power Program, which provides 100% carbon-free power. 

Last year the campus ramped up climate education with the launch of the UC-CSU Knowledge Action Network (KAN) NXTerra Digital Platform and Knowledge Action Network, co-directed by Dr. John Foran, a distinguished UCSB professor of sociology and environmental studies. The UC-CSU KAN for Transformative Climate and Sustainability Education and Action is a collaborative effort of UC and California State University educators to scale and intensify California students’ literacy in climate change, climate justice, carbon neutrality, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and critical sustainability.


Conference room with people listening while seated in chairs during a sustainability presentation

Shifting Conference Culture

The annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC), typically hosted at UC Santa Barbara, went 100% virtual for the first time in its 19-year history. This rapid change was a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference steering committee retooled months of conference planning and challenged all of the assumptions around audience participation built […]


Line graph depicting emissions levels between 2009 and 2019, with projected goals through 2025, and split into two categories. Scopes 1+2 decreased from 50,760 metric tons CO₂e in 2009 to 39,850 metric tons CO₂e by 2019, with a goal of 0 emissions by 2025. Scopes 1+2+3 decreased from 89,782 metric tons CO₂e in 2009 to 55,646 metric tons CO₂e by 2019, with a goal of 0 emissions by 2050.

Metric tons CO₂e in Thousands


Bar graph depicting Renewable Electricity Generation levels, split into four categories: On-Campus Systems (10,115.7 Mwh/year), Off-Campus Contracts (0 Mwh/year), Off-Campus Opt-in Utility Programs (0 Mwh/year), and Off-Campus UC Wholesale Power Program (0 Mwh/year).



Line graph depicting energy use intensity (EUI) between 2011 and 2019, split into two categories: EUI Target and EUI Actual. EUI Actual has remained under the EUI Target goal until 2019 when it rose slightly above the target goal.

EUI (kBtu/Sqft)

UC Santa Barbara continued to make strides in its efforts to use alternative transportation methods and support the use of electric vehicles in 2020.

Riding a bike icon

of UCSB employees are utilizing alternative commuting methods

Electric vehicle charing station icon

EV charging stations at this location for 2019-2020

Electric vehicle with charger icon

of light-duty vehicles acquired in 2020 were electric (zero-emission) and hybrid vehicles


Stacked bar graph depicting average water usage for FY 2019-2020. The water usage reduction goal for 2020 has been met.

Thousands of gallons per capita


Bar graph depicting waste generated between 2016 and 2020, split between three categories: Recycle, Organics, and Landfill. During this period, all categories decreased slightly.



Line graph depicting total waste diverted between 2013 and 2020, split into Diversion rate (no C&D) – Calculated and Calculated Diversion rate (MSW+C&D). Diversion rate (no C&D) in 2020 is at 66%, and Calculated Diversion rate in 2019 is at 68%, with a goal of 90%.

Percent Diverted

UC Santa Barbara continues to set ambitious goals, with a goal for 2030 of 25% spend on sustainable food and beverages.

Salad bar zoomed in on bowl of spinach image

total spend on food and beverages


of food and beverage purchases met sustainability criteria in fiscal year 2019-20

Desk Chair icon

green spend on indoor office furniture

Cleaning supplies in a bucket with a leaf

green spend
on cleaning supplies

Desktop computer and smart phone icon

green spend on electronics

UC Santa Barbara’s goals for procurement include 25% green spend on electronics and indoor office furniture, and 75% green spend on cleaning supplies.

Green building

UC Santa Barbara’s total LEED certifications speak to its commitment to sustainability.

14 Platinum, 40 Gold, 15 Silver and 2 Certified

Total number of LEED certifications
Sustainable Building & Laboratory Operations
Two laboratory beakers with stems with leaves coming out the top

total assessed research labs

UC Santa Barbara has met the goal of assessing three labs.


UC Santa Barbara was the proud recipient of an AASHE STARS Gold rating in 2020.

A full list of awards is here.