Even with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, UC San Diego Health continued to innovate ways to reduce waste, increase procurement of local, sustainable food and other products; reduce energy and water demand; and increase engagement across the organization. 

UC San Diego Health sustainability milestones in 2021 included developing a Green Clinic/Unit Certification program (GCC), initiating a Greening the OR (GOR) working group, and growing waste reduction and single-use medical device (SUD) reprocessing programs. 

GCC development included beta-testing and pilots, working with two student Carbon Neutrality fellows, the Sustainability Committee, and staff from the Hemophilia and Thrombosis Treatment Center, Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center and postpartum women and infant services. 

GOR made tremendous progress on priority actions in the first year due to the tenacity and dedication of physicians, nurses, and staff involved in environmental health and safety, sterile processing, procurement, environmental services, energy management and other areas. Successful GOR metrics included eliminating 18,000 Bair Paws disposable gowns from landfill, saving $170,000 annually; increasing SUD reprocessing education, collection and buy-back, with $450,000 in annual savings; benchmarking greenhouse gas impacts from anesthesia gases and eliminating desflurane from the formulary; and replacing over 2,500 operating room lights with LEDs for $65,000 in annual energy savings.


Doctor wearing a UC San Diego School of Medicine lab jacket with stethoscope

The Uncertainty of Climate Change Is Hurting Us

UC San Diego’s Tarik Benmarhnia and other researchers are now learning that the changing climate is having immediate and direct effects on human health — and will continue to affect people for years to come.

Person Holding Two prescription Bottles

Mental Health Trauma Plagues Wildfire Survivors

Stressful events like the Camp Fire, the deadly 2018 fire in Butte County, are on the rise due to climate change. “Since the 1970s, fire extent in California has increased by 400%,” said study co-author Veerabhadran Ramanathan, professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.


Percent of total spend on food and beverages that was spent on sustainable food and beverage in 2020 and 2021 with a 2030 goal of 30%.


The health system increased plant-based menu offerings from 15% to 20% over the past fiscal year. Its sustainable purchasing also continued to increase; in fiscal year 2020–21, 15% of its purchases met sustainability criteria.

ZERO WASTE – Generation

Bar graph depicting total waste generated split into 6 categories with 2025 goal of 25 lbs per person and 2030 goal of 20 lbs per person.


UC San Diego Health saw an 8.5% increase in total waste in the past fiscal year, disposing 24.86 pounds per adjusted patient day, although during this period, there was also a 4.1% annual increase in patient days. Municipal solid waste and regulated medical waste increased by 8% and 4%, respectively. Recycling increased by over 16%, while food waste for composting declined due to reduced public-facing services during the pandemic.


UC San Diego Health was the proud recipient of a Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Award in 2021.

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

Combined Data

Progress on the following policy areas for this Health System is reported by the campus location: