Chancellor’s Update—July 2023

July 24, 2023
Kim A. Wilcox
July 24, 2023

Dear Colleagues,

One small word easily describes the summer so far: hot. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), June was the hottest month recorded on Earth since temperature record-keeping began in 1850. Extreme events across the globe like floods in Asia and the American Northeast, wildfires in Canada, tennis ball-sized hail in Italy, and sustained high temperatures in the American Southwest are challenging now, but also provide a glimpse of future climate change impacts.  

Practicing sustainability on campus

While environmental sustainability is an especially hot topic this month, it’s long been a part of daily operations at UC Riverside. Our students, employees, and physical size make UCR one of the largest institutions within the region, creating both the responsibility and opportunity to deliver positive impact with our actions. This month’s message highlights some of the work we are doing. 

Keeping cool with less electricity. The university utilizes a chilled water loop system to air condition our campus buildings. To reduce stress on the electric grid, which also saves money in electric use, we chill and store the water in the system during off-peak nighttime hours. If a flex alert or conservation request is issued, we utilize water stored in tanks, further limiting our energy use. More information on how our systems work can be found here


Reducing water use. Across campus, we have areas where we have replaced thirsty turf with low water use plants. Additionally, Agricultural Operations is updating and repairing the irrigation infrastructure used for land-based research.


Solar power. Currently, about 10% of our electric use is supplied through solar power, and we are working to secure funding to significantly increase that percentage by expanding our rooftop solar program.


Carbon insets. The Carbon Insets program is another way to move the campus toward carbon neutrality by identifying and implementing energy saving projects that reduce greenhouse gas. In coordination with Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), UCR conducts an energy audit and evaluates energy savings projects. Some projects currently underway include updating building airflow and exhaust, insulation of steam pipes, and chilled water valves, which will help reduce close to 1100 metric tons of greenhouse gas.

Energy-efficient construction and renovation. Even though building square footage increased in recent years, overall electric consumption is down. One reason for this surprising result is that new buildings must comply with energy-efficiency standards. Additionally, investments in electric infrastructure have reduced power needs.

Reduced commutes. Commute emissions represented an estimated 20-25% of UCR’s carbon emissions in the past. Both increased campus student housing and hybrid schedules have contributed to reduced carbon emissions through commute reduction. 

Green laboratories. The Green Labs program at UCR promotes energy and waste reduction within campus labs while still meeting research needs.

Research and academic programs. The Office of Sustainability has a new website highlighting more than a dozen research centers related to climate and sustainability work in each of our schools. Additionally, UCR regularly publishes news that highlights UCR researchers’ work, like the story and accompanying video this month about artificial intelligence’s impact on water use and pollution.

Since 2009, the University of California has reduced total systemwide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent despite the large amount of growth during that time. But we know more must be done. President Drake recently announced a new climate protection policy for the University of California that prioritizes stronger carbon emission reduction. And in the 2023-2024 year, the campus will launch a decarbonization study to analyze ways to further reduce carbon emission of the campus central plant.

Individual contributions to sustainability

In addition to the things mentioned above, simple individual actions also contribute to a greener campus. We can practice energy conservation by turning off lights in empty rooms. We can reduce waste with reusable water bottles and careful decision making when printing. The R’commute website includes a variety of transportation methods to reduce carbon emissions including carpooling and public transit

Thanks to the many staff who have made our campus more livable and more sustainable.  And thanks to everyone for doing whatever you can to contribute to a greener future.