As a graduate student at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, plastic pollution is an issue that is very near to my heart. At UCSB I am specializing in coastal marine resource management and through my graduate coursework I have seen firsthand how plastic pollution harms delicate coastal ecosystems. This is what makes me so passionate about interning with EcoStiks, and spreading awareness about their mission, and the environment in general! For this article I wanted to go back to my school’s campus itself, and talk about UC Santa Barbara’s sustainability initiatives.
Universities are the epicenter of where millions of people live, work, and learn. UC Santa Barbara has taken advantage of this unique position to make itself a leader in sustainability. UC Santa Barbara has several campus-wide initiatives that help students and faculty live more environmentally friendly lives. Three of their most noteworthy initiatives are their cycling-friendly campus, free public transit passes for students, and the accessibility of composting on campus.
UC Santa Barbara is one of just eight universities in the United States that has been designated as platinum by the Bicycle Friendly Universities Program. This prestigious designation, given by the League of American Bicyclists, evaluates universities’ efforts to make their campuses conducive to commuting by bike. This evaluation is based on five categories: encouragement, education, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation/planning. While UC Santa Barbara benefits from having bike-friendly weather all year round, the campus has also made a strong effort to make commuting by bike safe and accessible for students and employees. UCSB has bike paths all over campus and 20,000 campus bike parking spots in a multitude of locations. Campus funded organizations like the A.S. Bicycle Shop and the A.S. Bicycle Committee also helps make cycling accessible for UCSB students. This has resulted in 55% of undergraduate students riding their bicycles to campus! The climate impact of this is huge. University of Oxford transport professor Christian Brand’s research found that taking a bike instead of a car once a day reduces the average person’s carbon emissions from transport by 67%.
UCSB also facilitates sustainability by offering free transit passes for all students. UCSB students can use their student ID cards to get free rides on MTD (Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District) buses, which run between Goleta and Carpinteria. According to data from the Federal Transit Administration, taking public transit instead of a private vehicle decreases carbon dioxide emissions per mile traveled in half (on average). By incentivizing students to use public transportation, UCSB has created an environment where sustainable choices are economically feasible, and easy for students to choose.
UC Santa Barbara also has separated-waste-stream trash locations all around campus that make it easy for students to separate compost from recycling from landfill-bound trash. Below is a map of UCSB’s 10 composting locations where students can drop off food waste, napkins, and other compostable trash. It is estimated that 21% of landfill waste in the United States consists of completely compostable food waste! By providing composting locations strategically placed near on-campus cafes and highly trafficked areas, UCSB makes it easy for students to reduce the amount of trash they send to landfills.