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, as a leader in promoting sustainability, 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 faculty, staff, and students have created many sites on campus that demonstrate commitment to sustainability. This walking tour provides an overview of UC Berkeley’s sustainable projects and 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 purpose is to divert 90% of our municipal solid waste stream to recycling, composting, or reuse.

1b. Water Refill Stations

Berkeley maintains 98 filtered water refill stations in more than 20 buildings on campus to encourage supporting the zero waste goal. Each refill station tallies how many disposable water bottles are diverted from campus waste. Begone the disposable plastic bottles!

1c. Multicultural Community Center

The Multicultural Community Center is a student-won, student-led space. They provide: space for collaborations and cross/inter-cultural community building; an educational hub for the critical study and practice of multiculturalism; a welcoming and inclusive space for students to engage in diverse cultural expression and identity exploration.

1d. ReUse Store

Led and operated by students, UC Berkeley ReUSE collects reusable materials from individuals and departments and redistributes them back to the campus community. Redistribution occurs via the ReUSE store in the basement of the MLK Student Union and the ReUSE Station in Barrows Hall. This service aims to encourage the campus community to reconsider their traditional notions of waste and incorporate reuse into their daily lives.

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 supports student environmental groups, 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 sponsors over 40 student organizations.

2) Lower Sproul

2a. Cistern & Rain Garden

An underground cistern collects rainwaterfrom Eshelman Hall's roof and from the Lower Sproul Plaza. When full, the system by design overflows into a rain garden located just northwest of the plaza.

2b. BicyCAL

BicyCAL is a student-founded, cooperatively run organization at UC Berkeley that empowers students, faculty, and staff to integrate bicycling into their daily lives. They provide an inclusive and safe space where the community can learn how to maintain, operate and love their bicycles. BicyCAL only charges for parts.

3) Strawberry Creek

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 invasive flora, such as grasses and ivy, have taken over some parts of Strawberry Creek. Volunteers remove such plants to preserve natural spaces on campus for recreation, ecological resilience, education, and connection to nature in an urban landscape.

4) Clean Energy Campus

The Clean Energy Campus will replace UC Berkeley’s natural gas-fueled cogeneration plant– which supplies 90% of campus energy–with a model 21st century, 100% clean energy microgrid. In 2023, the state of California invested $249 million in the implementation of the Clean Energy Campus programConstruction on the first of two project phases is slated to begin in 2024.

Phase oneincludes building a new electrified central plant for heating and cooling and a distribution network to connect most energy-intensive campus buildings. This phase is on-track to be completed by 2028. The remaining buildings will be connected to the network during phase 2, which is to be completed by 2030.

4a. The Old Art Gallery

This historical building, covered in Byzantine-style mosaic tiles, used to distribute steam heat and electricity as the campus’ central heating and power plant. After a newer heating plant replaced it, the building was converted into an art gallery, until it 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, a recreational green space.

5) Bee Campus Garden

UC Berkeley is an affiliate of Bee Campus USA, an initiative that aims to raise awareness of the role pollinators play in our communities and how each of us can take action to create healthier ecosystems. UC Berkeley is the 5th California campus and the 80th campus nationally to be certified as a Bee Campus affiliate. There are three bee gardens on campus: in the the Hearst Women’s gym garden, near the Li Ka Shing prairie planting, and in the Entomology Museum garden by the Valley Life Sciences Building. 

6) Chou Hall

Chou Hall is the first academic building in the country to achieve  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum and WELL certifications. t(The latter is a designation reflecting a focus on user health and well-being.) In addition, Chou Hall also was the first academic building in the nation to attain a platinum-level TRUE Zero Waste certification. It is also the first Zero Waste building on the 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 prevent flooding by absorbing rainwater instead of funneling it into gutters and storm drains. Serving the dual purposes of providing stormwaterstorm water management and a nice place to relax, this particular green roof is a prototype for other roof gardens on campus. Li Ka Shing Center provides another example of a green roof on campus.

8) Jacobs Hall

The American Institute of Architects named the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at UC Berkeley as one of the nation’s top 10 examples of sustainable architecture and ecological design. The Institute holds the highest honor of LEED™ certification: 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.