Sustainability Walking Tour

Experiential Learning through a Walking Tour

Did you know that you can do a free Sustainability Walking Tour right here on the UC Berkeley campus?

UC Berkeley is a leader in promoting sustainability and is a responsible steward of the campus environment. Through our actions such as the Clean Energy Campus program, equity and inclusion based programs, student-led passion projects, and green buildings, Berkeley’s passionate faculty, staff, and students have created many sites on campus that demonstrate our commitment to sustainability. This tour provides participants with a brief overview of UC Berkeley’s sustainable projects, as well as additional resources to further explore sustainability both on and off campus.

Now instead of just reading about these sites, you can go experience them directly!

Places to See on the Tour

1) Martin Luther King Student Union

1a. Zero Waste Bins

Cal Zero Waste and Facilities Services have installed over 85 solar compacting multi-stream (recycling, compost, landfill) exterior bins on campus. Their goal is to divert 90% of our municipal solid waste stream to recycling, composting, or reuse, and they can be found all over campus. 

1b. Water Refill Stations

Berkeley is now home to refill stations in more than 20 buildings on campus, including Barrows hall. Water stations encourage the community to switch to reusable bottles and public water, forgoing the disposable variety and supporting the zero waste goal. There are 98 total refill stations on campus, which can be viewed on this map

1c. Multicultural Community Center

The Multicultural Community Center is a student-won, student-led space. They facilitate students’ greater involvement in multicultural-related education, collaborations, and cross/inter-cultural community building by providing: an educational space for the critical study and practice of multiculturalism, and a welcoming and inclusive space for students. They aim to foster cultural expression and identity exploration within Berkeley’s diverse student population.

1d. ReUse Store

UC Berkeley ReUSE collects reusable materials from individuals and departments and redistributes them back to the campus community. This service aims to encourage the campus community to reconsider their traditional notions of waste and incorporate reuse into their daily lives. ReUSE makes donated reusable items available on campus through the ReUSE store in the basement of the MLK Student Union and through the ReUSE Station in Barrows Hall.

1e. SERC Environmental Resource Center

The Student Environmental Resource Center, located in the MLK Student Union basement, bNorth, is a campus center for the student environmental and sustainability community. SERC cultivates a collaborative space to strengthen the collective effectiveness of the sustainability community, and provides resources for students to actualize their visions of a more equitable, socially just, and resilient future. SERC continues to expand its programs, projects, and resources – managing environmental programs and bringing together student organizations from all over campus.

2) Lower Sproul

2a. Cistern & Rain Garden

Rain water is collected from Eshelman hall's roof and the Lower Sproul Plaza into an underground cistern that is located under Lower Sproul Plaza. The greywater is treated and then pumped back into the hall to be used for flushing toilets. If there is too much rain for the cistern to handle, the system is designed to overflow into a rain garden located just northwest of the plaza. You may notice that there are signs in the bathrooms located in MLK Student Union and Eshelman that indicate the toilets utilize non potable greywater.

2b. BicyCAL

BicyCAL is a cooperatively run and student founded organization at UC Berkeley that aims to empower UCB students, faculty and staff to successfully integrate the bicycle into their daily lives. They provide a space where the community can learn how to maintain, operate and love their bicycles in an inclusive and safe place. BicyCAL encourages students to learn how to fix their own bikes, and only charge for parts. 

3) Strawberry Creek

Berkeley has an educational program to restore Strawberry Creek and its native species: over 3,000 students use the creek as an outdoor lab annually, and the design of surrounding buildings incorporates features to protect the creek’s health and quality. Most recently, students, staff and contractors designed and installed ecologically-functional grade control structures for a degraded section of Strawberry Creek and planted the banks with native vegetation. 

Some invasives, such as various grasses and ivy, have taken over some parts of Strawberry Creek. Volunteer community efforts to remove this plant along the embankments of the Creek are the driving force in preserving natural spaces on campus. Strawberry Creek represents a place of recreation, ecological resilience, education, and a connection to nature in an ever-changing urban landscape. Strawberry Creek has endured many forms of human interventions over the decades, and its restoration plays a key role in how the UC Berkeley campus will function in the future. 

4) Clean Energy Campus

The Clean Energy Campus will replace UC Berkeley’s natural gas-fueled cogen plant that supplies 90% of campus energy -- with a model 21st century, 100% clean energy microgrid. Implementation of the Clean Energy Campus began in 2023 with a capital investment of $249 million from the State of California. Construction is ready to begin in 2024 on the first of two project phases. 

Phase one is on-track to be completed by 2028 and includes the new electrified central plant for heating and cooling, as well as a distribution network required to connect a majority of campus buildings. The most energy-intensive buildings will be prioritized for connection in the first phase, and the remaining buildings will be connected in phase two that will take an additional two years to complete. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by 2028.

4a. The Old Art Gallery

This historical building, covered in Byzantine-style mosaic tiles, used to be the campus’ central heating and power plant, distributing steam heat and electricity. After it was replaced by a newer heating plant, the building was converted into an art gallery, then became a storage space for 50 years. This building will be converted into Switch Station #8, the future home of electrical equipment that will route energy throughout campus.

4b. North Field

A new central electrified heating and cooling plant capable of serving more than 12 million square feet of building space will be built underground, under North Field. 

5) Bee Campus Garden

UC Berkeley is an affiliate of Bee Campus USA, an initiative that aims to foster ongoing dialogue to raise awareness of the role pollinators play in our communities and how each of us can take action to create healthy habitat. In light of UC Berkeley's longstanding history of leadership in the field of pollinators and pollination, they are the 5th California campus and the 80th campus in the nation to be certified. There are three bee gardens on campus: the Hearst Women’s gym garden, the Li Ka Shing prairie planting, and the Entomology Museum garden by VLSB.

6) Chou Hall

Chou Hall is the first academic building in the country awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum and WELL certifications, the latter a designation reflecting a focus on user health and well-being. In addition, Chou Hall also attained a platinum level TRUE Zero Waste certification, the first academic building in the nation and the first Zero Waste building on the UC Berkeley campus. Chou Hall diverts over 90 percent of its waste from landfills.

7) Bechtel Engineering Center Green Roof

The grassy area in front of Bechtel Hall is actually the roof of the Engineering Library. Green roofs, such as this one, improve water quality by catching and absorbing airborne pollutants that would otherwise inevitably wash into the creek. They also deter flooding by absorbing rainwater instead of funneling it into gutters and storm drains. This particular green roof is a prototype for other roof gardens on campus, giving dual purpose—providing storm water management as well as a nice place to relax—to what would be an otherwise unused surface. Another green roof on campus is located on the roof of Li Ka Shing.

8) Jacobs Hall

The Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at UC Berkeley has been named by the American Institute of Architects as one of the nation’s top 10 examples of sustainable architecture and ecological design. The Institute was awarded the highest honor of LEED™ platinum. Its rooftop solar arrays produce about 120,000 kWh of clean power each year for the building.

Download the Sustainability Walking Tour!

You can download a copy of the SUSTAINABILITY WALKING TOUR. You are welcome to print this campus guide for your walkabout. However, if you can view the tour on your iPad or laptop, please consider augmenting your reality digitally to save trees.