Despite remote instruction and a full campus evacuation due to the CZU fire, UC Santa Cruz still has many sustainable accomplishments to report. With decreased personnel on campus, there was an almost 40% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions and a 34% reduction in potable water use from the previous year. 

UC Santa Cruz launched a new agroecology major, which focuses on the ecology of agricultural systems with the goal of designing farming methods that conserve resources, maintain yields and protect the health of people and surrounding natural landscapes.

The Sustainability Office adjusted conservation programs to accommodate remote engagement through programs like the “stay green during quarantine” Home Office Assessment and by launching a new environmental and social justice film series.

UC Santa Cruz’s employee educational certificate classes went virtual and set record graduation rates. The Sustainability Certificate Program had 36 graduates for a total of 114 since 2018.

While the campus’s student population was significantly reduced, operational staff stayed hard at work implementing sustainable infrastructure. Over $1 million in grant money enabled the campus to upgrade the Great Meadow Bike Path by improving the pavement and widening the path for mixed pedestrian use. The Grounds Services department took a holistic approach to improving the biome of the athletic fields, which resulted in saving approximately 1 million gallons of water. Lastly, UC Santa Cruz achieved Fair Trade University status thanks to the efforts of students, and also adopted the DocuSign electronic signature platform, saving tens of thousands of pounds of paper campuswide.


Student wearing mask and face shield participating at Slug Food Pantry

UC Santa Cruz’s Global Environmental Justice Observatory Launches Peer-Reviewed, Student-Edited Journal of Global Environmental Justice

UCSC’s new student-edited, peer-reviewed Journal of Global Environmental Justice supports research and education in the interface of the environment and climate change, social justice and human rights.


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

In 2021, UC Santa Cruz did a deep dive into historic emissions reporting. As a result, small updates to historic emissions were made in 2020. Due to COVID-19, emissions were lower. (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 between 2016 through 2020, split into 3 categories: Off-campus UC Clean Power Program, On-Campus Systems, and Off-Campus Utility Programs

Mwh/Year in Thousands


Line graph depicting energy use intensity (EUI) between 2016 and 2020, split into two categories: EUI Target and EUI Actual. EUI Actual remained under the EUI Target goal until 2019 when it rose above the target goal.

EUI (kBtu/Sqft)

UC Santa Cruz saw a decrease in its EUI in the calendar year 2020.


Percent of total spend on food and beverages that was spent on sustainable food and beverage, compared between 2020 and 2021.


Due to COVID-19, food consumption was down significantly in fiscal year 2020–21.

Green building

Although the new Environmental Health and Safety Facility was constructed in 2020, UC Santa Cruz was still waiting for the U.S. Green Building Council to approve three LEED outstanding credits at the time of this report.

7 Gold, 6 Silver and 2 Certified

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

Due to COVID-19, no labs were certified in fiscal year 2020–21.


Due to COVID-19, there was a significant decrease in commuting. The reported alternative commute rate was based on trips made to the campus and did not include the 67% of the population working or learning from home.

Riding a bike icon

of UCSC students and employees are utilizing alternative commuting methods

Electric vehicle charging station icon

EV charging stations at this location for 2020-2021

Electric vehicle with charger icon

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


In 2020 143 million gallons of portable water used. 2021 95 million gallons of portable water used

The vast majority of water savings in fiscal year 2020–21 should be attributed to a lower campus population. That being said, departments across campus were cognizant of the growing water crisis and implemented conservation measures. For example, the Grounds department saved 1 million gallons of water through improved soil management. 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 2016 and 2020, split between three categories: Recycle, Organics, and Landfill. During this period, Landfill remained consistent, Recycling decreased significantly, and Organics decreased significantly.


Due to COVID-19, there was a significant reduction in waste on campus.


Line graph depicting total waste diverted between FY 2012-13 through FY 2020-21 split into Diversion rate (no C&D) and Diversion rate (MSW+C&D), with a goal of 90%.

Percent Diverted

UC Santa Cruz changed the handling of recyclables to a more inclusive operator that accepts paper and cardboard in the recycling stream, which resulted in more waste diversion.