The UC Cool Campus Challenge

Berkeley may be the number one public university, but are we number one in reducing our carbon footprint?Not quite. But first, a little background. In 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which challenges all University of California schools to have a net zero carbon footprint by 2025.


The way to accomplish this is to offset carbon emissions from building’s energy usage and vehicle fleets by producing renewable energy, whether that be using solar panels on campus or sourcing our electricity from entirely renewable sources. Additionally, campuses are increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and replacing vehicles with less polluting alternatives. We’re not exactly on track to meet that goal, however, which is students are being challenged to do their part.

In April 2015, the UC’s competed in the first Cool Campus Challenge, a competition where students, staff, and faculty can take actions to earn points as an individual or team, and the university with the most points was deemed the coolest campus. Back in 2015, Berkeley placed SEVEN out of ten, but with the culture of sustainability at Berkeley, we can do way better. This year, we’re going for number one.

The competition runs from April 1-26, 2019, and we’re in the lead so far based on number of participants and number of points earned. In order to stay in first though, we need your help! Sign up at and start taking simple actions that reduce your carbon footprint. It’s honestly pretty fun — I log on and earn points when procrastinating my school work —  and the actions make a difference.

Let’s take a look at some individual actions that you can make as part of the challenge:

    1. Going “meatless” for a day. Try vegetarianism or even a vegan diet. This is one of the best actions you can take to make a difference, since the energy required for animals and animal products has so many hidden processes.
    2. Sorting your waste properly. Why do we emphasize “Zero Waste,” aka sorting compost and recycling? It’s because we are trying to minimize the amount of material that will pile up in landfills, using up valuable land, polluting our earth, and harming nearby communities. When you allow your waste to be composted, it gets put back into the Earth, and recycling keeps another aluminum can from having to be made again from scratch.
    3. Flying more sustainably. The most impactful thing you can do to reduce your footprint is take fewer plane flights. Despite being “public transportation,” airplanes still have so many emissions that your carbon footprint can sometimes double just based on how far you fly. Cool Campus offers suggestions for greener airlines, or do what I do and purchase carbon offsets that will plant trees!

This is just a small sample of pledges you can make within the Cool Campus interface. But even small things, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking BART instead of driving, watching a 3 minute video about environmental issues, etc, are easy ways to earn points and become a more carbon-conscious individual. I’m personally vested in this competition because I am involved in the sustainability community at Cal, but everyone ought to be involved throughout campus to make it a success. Remember bears, blue and gold make GREEN!

Author: Katia Gibson

Hello! I'm Katia, a senior chemistry major and Cal Teach minor, and you'll either find me in the 24 hour library studying or out chasing sunsets on my long runs. I'm a Bay Area native and I also do work in the environmental community, research in an organic chemistry lab, and dance with Ballet Folklorico Reflejos de Mexico. Hoping that I can share a little bit of Berkeley's magic with you all, go bears!