UC Merced’s biggest sustainability milestone was announcing achievement of its campus carbon neutrality goal of 2020. Building on the early sustainability successes with energy-efficient buildings and completion of its first solar array, in 2009, the campus committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2020, five years earlier than the UC systemwide goal of 2025.

In December 2020, after publicly reporting 2018 emissions data and completing third-party verification through The Climate Registry, the campus announced that it had achieved carbon neutrality for 2018 emissions, two years earlier than planned.

To help the campus with its ongoing sustainability commitments, Merced continued with green lab and office programs by certifying lab and office spaces for their environmental performance. These programs focused on reducing energy, water and waste, as well as sustainable procurement.


Bar graph depicting emissions levels between 2009 and 2020, with projected goals through 2050, and split into two categories. Scopes 1+2 goal of 0 emissions by 2025. Scopes 1+2+3 goal of 0 emissions by 2050.

Metric Tons CO₂e in Thousands

As UC’s newest campus, UC Merced had set a more aggressive goal to achieve climate neutrality for scopes 1 and 2 sources by 2020. Emissions remained flat last year despite an increase in the number of buildings that came online from the Merced 2020 Project. The campus was not operating at full capacity during the pandemic. (At the time of data collection, campus greenhouse gas emissions were not yet third-party verified. Updates will be made, as needed, in future reports.)


Bar graph depicting Renewable Electricity Generation levels from 2016 through 2020, split into 2 categories: On-Campus Systems and Off-Campus UC Clean Power Program.

Mwh/Year in Thousands


Line graph depicting energy use intensity (EUI) between 2012 and 2020, split into two categories: EUI Target and EUI Actual. EUI Actual dipped under the target significantly in 2013 and rose again in 2014. From there, it fluctuated above and below the target and ended above the EUI Target in 2020.

EUI (kBtu/Sqft)

UC Merced saw an increase in its EUI in the calendar year 2020.


Percent of total spend on food and beverages that was spent on sustainable food and beverage with a 2030 goal of 25%.


UC Merced Dining Centers switched from dine-in only to dine-out only in response to COVID-19.

Green building

The campus certified nine more LEED Platinum buildings.

19 Platinum, 10 Gold and 2 Silver

Total number of LEED certifications


At the time of this report, sustainable procurement data was not yet available for fiscal year 2020–21. Fiscal year 2019–20 data is available in the 2020 Annual Sustainability Report.

Sustainable Building & Laboratory Operations
Two laboratory beakers with stems with leaves coming out the top

total assessed research labs

There was no new activity in the fiscal year due to COVID-19. However, the campus was able to complete a Green Lab Guide that advises researchers and design teams on how to develop a sustainable lab.


UC Merced continued to make strides in its efforts to use alternative transportation methods and support the use of electric vehicles in 2021.

Electric vehicle with charger icon

of light-duty vehicles acquired in 2021 were electric (zero-emission) or hybrid vehicles

Electric vehicle charging station icon

EV charging stations at this location for 2020-2021


In 2020 114 million gallons of portable water used. 2021 119 million gallons of portable water used

While UC Merced is on track to meet the 2025 goal of 36% reduction of water, the campus’s overall water use increased in fiscal year 2020–21 compared to the previous year, a result of adding nine new buildings and several commissioning operations, such as building water flush-outs, that consumed a considerable amount of water. This year’s report illustrates the difference in water consumption between fiscal year 2019–20 and fiscal year 2020–21 instead of measuring progress toward the 2025 goal.


Bar graph depicting waste generated between FY2015-16 and 2020-21, split between Recycled, Organics, Allowable residual conversion, and Landfill. During this period, all three categories decreased significantly, and 2020-21 levels are below the 2030 target.


Due to COVID-19, there was a major reduction in compost and food rescue on campus. With the campus closure and concerns for safety, the food recovery program on campus shut down temporarily. From March to September 2020, the campus recycling center was also closed. During this time, trash from upper campus was not sorted and instead thrown into landfill, increasing the campus landfill numbers tremendously.


Line graph depicting total waste diverted between FY 2008-09 and 2020-21, split into Diversion rate (no C&D) and Diversion rate (MSW+C&D). Diversion rates in 2020-21 were both 33%, with a goal of 90%.

Percent Diverted

UC Merced’s diversion was lower in fiscal year 2020–21 compared to the previous year due to low amounts of compost and recycling and the high amount of landfill.


UC Merced was the proud recipient of several sustainability awards in 2020.

UC Merced is ranked in The Princeton Review Top 50 Green Colleges.

A full list of awards is featured on the UC Office of the President’s website.