UC Merced continues to make great strides to build on its culture of sustainability. Efforts are underway to engage a consultant to assess existing fossil fuel-based systems on campus.
The consultant will develop strategies the campus can adopt to transition existing systems to electric and eliminate the use of fossil fuels in future operations. UC Merced also recently installed electric vehicle charging on-site, increasing the campus’s capacity to accommodate the transition to clean vehicle use for community members.
Read More about Sustainability at UC Merced
The campus is planning for and designing a medical education building that will target LEED Platinum certification. This building will be all-electric, prioritizing in the design a shade structure to reduce energy consumption and a smart facade to avoid excess solar heat gain and glare. The building will also include infrastructure to accommodate the installation of a photovoltaic system.
An infrastructure and utility master plan for future campus expansion is also in progress. Planned efforts for the phased expansion will evaluate the campus utility capacity and include strategies to support the electrification of the next phase of campus development. The concepts will also include consideration of on-site renewable energy and electrical and thermal energy storage.
UC Merced is also prioritizing the assessment of existing on-site infrastructure to eliminate waste. Scaling and increasing centralized waste locations has been essential to establishing the infrastructure needed to support zero waste on campus. The Pavilion and Dining Commons transitioned to reusable dishware to reduce waste, cut costs and enhance the overall dining experience.
UC Merced will also launch an on-site composting program utilizing green waste. The program will serve as a demonstration site for student learning and support faculty research. It will also reduce the amount of compost purchased by the campus and expenses associated with green waste hauling fees. Students will be a vital part of the program.
Additionally, the campus is exploring establishing nature trails on campus that will give students an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, highlight native plant species and provide areas of respite for animals and insects to help build biodiversity on campus.
UC Merced’s Experimental Smart Farm enables experiments, such as use of a state-of-the art electric tractor and study of agrivoltaics to generate shade and renewable energy via solar voltaic panels.
Four researchers at UC Merced received grants stemming from a historic partnership between UC and the state of California. The projects — focused on improving community preparedness for emergency evacuation using zero-emission vehicles, increasing publicly available tools for climate-smart seed sourcing for reforestation, developing new equity-centered water planning tools and providing decision support for optimal benefits from California’s methane policy — respond to the call for innovative proposals to support California’s climate action.
CLIMATE PROTECTION – EMISSIONS
* Interim goals for 2030, 2035 and 2040 to be developed through fossil-free planning that is underway at each location
** 90% direct reduction of total emissions from 2019 levels with residual emissions negated by carbon removal
UC Merced continues to remain a carbon neutral campus for scopes 1 and 2 emissions with a redirected focus on investing in projects that support direct emission reductions for current fossil fuel systems. Planning efforts are underway to assess the electrification of future campus development.
ENERGY – RENEWABLE energy use
ENERGY USE INTENSITY (EUI)
UC Merced saw an increase in its EUI in 2022.
of food and beverage purchases met sustainability criteria ($1.7M)
of food and beverage purchases were plant-based ($1.7M)
UC Merced has achieved plant-based spend of 24% and sustainable food spend of 24%. While UC Merced’s plant-based and sustainable food spend slightly decreased in fiscal year 2022–23 after surpassing the systemwide goal of 25% in fiscal year 2021–22, campus dining operations continue to prioritize sustainable food purchases.
The Medical Education Building is in the planning and design phase with a prioritization in energy-efficient design to include a shade structure to reduce energy consumption and infrastructure to accommodate photovoltaic technology on the roof. The building is expected to be a stand-alone all-electric LEED Platinum building.
19 Platinum, 11 Gold and 2 SilverTotal number of LEED certifications
green spend on electronics (49%)
green spend on cleaning supplies (77%)
green spend on indoor office furniture (99%)
green spend on office supplies (69%)
The University reports on green spend, as defined in the Sustainable Procurement Guidelines, and reached out to suppliers for spend data in four product categories for this year’s report.
Green spend is defined as meeting preferred or minimum criteria in UC’s Sustainable Procurement Guidelines.
Suppliers reporting: Electronics (5), Furniture (2), Cleaning supplies (4), Office supplies (3).
UC Systemwide Spend Analytics category data provided by CalUSource.
Sustainable Building & Laboratory Operations
The Sustainability Office worked with researchers and postdoctoral researchers to support Green Lab certifications. Nine labs were certified this past year, and additional certifications are underway.
total assessed green laboratories
of employees are utilizing alternative commuting methods
EV charging ports
of all vehicles acquired in 2023 were electric (zero-emission), plug-in hybrid or clean transportation fuel
Scope 3 emissions substantially increased as additional data was retrieved to inform calculations. Continued assessment of this year’s and past years’ emissions output will be necessary to ensure the campus has captured all of its scope 3 travel and commuting emissions.
*Based on a 3-year average of fiscal years 2005-08
**2025 goal is a 36% reduction from baseline
As the campus continues to grow, water usage has increased. The campus engages in outreach to students to increase awareness of practices they can implement to reduce on-site water consumption.
ZERO WASTE – GENERATion
*These numbers might include a small amount of incineration that is being phased out.
UC Merced observed an increase of 157 tons of waste sent to the landfill compared with fiscal year 2021–22. This was largely due to a return to normal business operations.
ZERO WASTE – DIVERsion
*Waste incineration was counted as diversion prior to July 2022.
No data is available for 2019.
UC Merced diverted 33% of the waste generated on campus during the 2022–23 fiscal year (excluding construction and demolition waste), which represents a 2% increase in the waste diversion rate compared with the prior fiscal year. The total amount of waste diverted increased significantly, from 179 tons in 2021–22 to 269 tons in 2022–23.
UC Merced continues to remain a Platinum-rated institution under the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The campus was also awarded the Urban Land Institute’s 2023 Americas Awards for Excellence for its 2020 master architect project. The program evaluates submissions on overall excellence, including achievements in marketplace acceptance, design, planning, technology, amenities, economic impact, management, community engagement, innovation and sustainability, among others.
A full list of awards is featured on the UC Office of the President’s website.