The Sustainability Initiative

Director: Abby Reyes
Faculty Director: Dr. Travis Huxman
Initiative Funding Period: December 2013 – December 2016

The Problem: The Sustainability Initiative addresses a core need for coordination and enhancement of sustainability education, research, and outreach at UC Irvine.

The Sustainability Initiative embraces UCI’s history and excellence in community-engaged, solution-driven scholarship as integral to tackling grand challenges facing society including the critical climate, environment, health, justice, and resource challenges. The Initiative has infused sustainability across campus by training and empowering students and faculty with tools for research, thus making UCI  a unique place for innovation and expression in sustainability-related fields.

The Sustainability Initiative recognizes “sustainability” as both an academic discipline and a broad framework. UCI’s research, education, and operation enterprises highlight these dual identities and the challenge to fit them into an administrative structure. The Sustainability Initiative builds alignment, leverages common purpose, and strengthens multi-disciplinary work, co-curricular education, and campus operations.

The main goals developed by the Sustainability Initiative include:

  • Make sustainability and climate neutrality part of the learning experience of all UCI students by 2020;
  • Enable a training hub for faculty, staff, students and community partners to co-create action in an integrated, holistic resilience framework that addresses the root causes of sustainability crises and deepens understanding of the interdependence of all life;
  • Create an environment in which our scholars, students, and campus workforce incorporate a dynamic understanding of sustainability into all they study, teach, learn, and do;
  • Establish a Regional Climate Resilience Collaborative and position UCI as the go-to-partner for policy makers and frontline communities responding to environmental challenges.

Future Plans

The interdisciplinary programs visioned, enhanced, or promoted by the Sustainability Initiative have lasting impacts in units across campus. Co-curricular programs are thriving in the Global Sustainability Resource Center. UC-wide and campus sustainability operations are now guided through the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Sustainability. Academic programs are being amplified utilizing a ‘meta-center’ of environmental initiatives, linking Water UCI, UCI OCEANS, the Salton Sea Initiative, along with several existing school-based centers. Careful leveraging of each program area by a campus-wide sustainability steering committee has resulted in new, exciting scholarly connections and much greater coordination among scholars, students and staff in all that UCI does.