Skip navigation
Going Green

Narrator: The public's attention these days is focused intently on global warming and the damage we're doing to the earth. And UC Berkeley is drawing attention of its own for "going green" in a big way fast. From its many energy-related research centers, to new requirements for campus conservation, Berkeley leads the way in changing how we think and act in order to save our environment.

One of the biggest new developments on campus is the announcement of the Energy Biosciences Institute, a major research effort combining the expertise and investments of UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the BP oil company.

Gov. Schwarzenegger: This is great news for California and this is great news for America ...great news for the world...

Narrator: With Berkeley 's proximity to the technology sector and its track record for innovation, the administration has made its energy and sustainability efforts a top priority.

Chancellor Birgeneau: Suddenly, a lot of people are paying attention and we have now new avenues of possible support for the research we must do and these include private philanthropy, foundations, state government, federal government, and energy companies like BP and so we have now a lot of very exciting possibilities and we are pushing on all of these fronts simultaneously.

To help us move away from using fossil fuels for transportation, EBI will invent technology to improve biofuels - fuel made from plants, instead of oil. Nobel Laureate Steve Chu, who directs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory next door to UC Berkeley, began an effort several years ago to accelerate the pace of developing more efficient forms of alternative energy.

Steve Chu: I became convinced that the climate change projections were increasingly ominous; we had to do something about it. I looked around and I realized that Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in partnership with The University of California Berkeley had the intellectual capacity to be a world center for the type of energy research that would lead to solutions.
We needed to enlist some of the best basic scientists, to consider shifting their career voluntarily to actually come together in teams and work on it. And so it really came with the idea of acting as a cheerleader, giving many talks, saying "This is a real issue, can we get together and do something about it?" And over the last two and a half years, its been very heartwarming to see the level of enthusiasm.

One of the things we trying to do with the EBI is bring together a group of scientists that can see all aspects of the problem.

Narrator: Chris Somerville is the new director of the Energy Biosciences Institute. He says that inventing technology that can use plants and their unique ability to transform sunlight to energy - will have far-reaching effects for society.

Sommerville: The energy in sunlight that strikes the surface of the earth is about 10,000 times more energy than all the energy used by humans. So if we could capture just 1% of that, which is what a highly productive plant crop can do, we would only need 5 % of the terrestrial surface to meet all human energy needs.

Narrator: This is the site for the new facility that will house the Energy Biosciences Institute. It's in the Berkeley Hills, right on the boundry between UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The construction will be funded with part of the 500 million dollar BP grant, which will be spread over the next 10 years.

Sommerville: This is going to infuse a lot of interest and energy and people and channel people towards biofuels, biological solutions to the energy problem.

Narrator: Carolyn Bertozzi directs LBNL's Molecular Foundry, next door to the future EBI building. The Foundry's expertise in nanotechnology, that is, technology that works on the scale of tiny molecules, will be useful for EBI's biofuels scientists.

Bertozzi: They can take advantage of our instruments, our materials, our scientists, our knowledge and our capabilities and they can also bring new, interesting problems to the table and we'll mobilize to work towards solving those problems. The energy secretary has proposed the goal of getting 30% of all the transportation fuels in the US from biomass by 2030, but I actually think we'll meet that goal far before 2030.

Narrator: Beyond the dozens of Berkeley projects devoted to energy research, the university recently took a serious look at the amount of green-house gases the campus emits. The Chancellor made a commitment to cut those emissions down to 1990 levels within 7 years. Since 2005, UC Berkeley and all the UC campues have adopted new requirements for things like constructing and maintaining buildings with recycled and sustainable materials, and switching to more energy efficient lighting, irrigation, and climate control systems. And students have been very involved in these efforts. It was student input that got Berkeley 's dining service to put into place the first certified organic salad bar at a university.

Chuck Davies: I think that there's an awareness in Berkeley in general and in the country as a whole, of moving towards sustainable agriculture, wanting to know where your food comes from, feeling comfortable about the farming practices and what we're doing to the earth, global warming; All those issues are important to people and I think this ties in with that.

Stephanie Ludwig: I think in general our society promotes chemicals and artificiality more than it should, and it's nice to get back to more wholesome-types foods.

Jake Lewin: Berkeley is leading the way and saying, "This is really possible. This isn't just a dream. This is something that some motivated people can really make happen at their institution."

Narrator: At the urging of the student government, the campus student union is now solar-powered. Students have even set up apartments in their residence halls to promote a "greener" lifestyle. Desirae Early is majoring in Environmental Economics and Policy.

Desirae Early: By "green apartment," we mean that it has environmentally friendly products, alternatives to what products a student would regularly use. So we're really trying to make being an environmentally friendly student easy, doing all the research on all the projects and putting them into little note cards that students can look at so they don't have to do the research themselves if they want to be a little more environmentally friendly.

Narrator: In so many ways, the campus is certainly getting greener by the day. And the intention of many campus officials, faculty, and students is that the green coming out of Berkeley will rub off on the rest of the world. I'm Roxanne Makasdjian at UC Berkeley.