New events highlight Pacific’s commitment to sustainability

Student Working in Robb Garden

Despite being remote due to COVID-19, Pacific Garden Program students have continued to work throughout the year

University of the Pacific, one of the nation's private universities who is leading in solar and other sustainability efforts, will celebrate Sustainability Month in April for the ninth-consecutive year.

Sustaining Pacific, Pacific's university-wide sustainability committee, will provide opportunities to increase environmental awareness and encourage more people to adopt a green lifestyle through a variety of virtual events.

New this year is a "Match our Trash" campaign. In collaboration with ASuop, the Sustaining Pacific team will challenge students and campus groups to clean up trash in their neighborhood. Students can post photos on Instagram and challenge each other to join in the campaign.

"Being remote, we wanted to figure out a way to get everyone involved where they are and to encourage people to clean up their own communities," said sustainability coordinator Kelsey Smith.

Another highlight will be a Pre-Earth Day Cookalong on Tuesday, April 20. Students from the Pacific Garden Program will share one of their favorite vegetarian recipes and prepare the dish with vegetables grown in the Ted and Chris Robb Garden, which was established by former Regent and Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb and grows organic produce.

"Despite being remote due to COVID-19, our garden program students have continued to work throughout the year," explained Smith. "During the cookalong, we plan to highlight their accomplishments and provide updates on the gardens."

Produce grown by the Pacific Garden Program has gone to the Food Pantry, which remains open to provide support for individuals on campus who are facing food insecurity.

"Our goal for Sustainability Month is to try to engage folks so it's not just the university playing its part to help the environment, but each of us in the Pacific community," said Jessica Bilecki, sustainability director at Pacific. "Each of our individual actions add up and together we can make a big difference in making a more sustainable future for our community.”

Among Pacific's other sustainability initiatives, construction continues to install solar canopies in eight parking lots on the Stockton campus.

"We are on pace to have all of the canopies raised by the end of the summer," said Bilecki. "The team will continue to do some underground work that will be needed and we anticipate having the project completed by early next year."

In partnership with Tesla, the project will provide more than 30% of the overall energy needs of the campus. Pacific will generate more of its energy needs from solar power produced on campus than all but one other university in the nation, according to Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System reports.

The construction also includes the installation of 16 electric vehicle charging ports throughout campus, which will be helpful since Pacific is ranked second nationally for the highest percentage of campus-owned vehicles that are 100% electric, according to a survey released by the Environment America Research and Policy Center.

Other efforts include reinstituting the Pacific Green Team when students return to campus in the fall. The community of student volunteers will continue their work to increase landfill diversion rates by monitoring waste stations and Green Move In/Out areas, ensuring recyclable and compostable materials are kept out of the landfill. They will also distribute Pacific's new sustainable living guide, which will educate community members on how they can be more sustainable on campus.

"These efforts are meant to highlight that sustainability is about more than just recycling and planting trees," said Smith. "It can be part of all of our day-to-day activities. Once people see the connections, it becomes so much easier to think of sustainable living as something that is pretty easy to do."

To learn more about Pacific's sustainability efforts, visit the Sustainability webpage.