A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Campus Sustainability Coordinator Sees, Thinks Green

November 7, 2012

Ashley Chiang is on a mission to help faculty, staff and students think, live and work “green.”

Chiang, who graduated from UC Merced last spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, was hired as the campus’s sustainability coordinator on Aug. 1. But even before she landed the job, she was already well-versed with the UC Merced’s sustainability philosophy and efforts.

As an undergraduate, Chiang served as a student representative on the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Sustainability, landed a paid internship with the Green Campus Program, conducted an energy audit of the residential housing laundry room, contributed to UC Merced’s Climate Action Plan and took inventory of the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions as part of its Triple Net Zero Commitment.

As sustainability coordinator she’s developing projects and processes that will help continue UC Merced’s goal to be the “greenest” university in the nation. One current project is to assist in maintaining the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for Kolligian Library.  Chiang would also like to broaden sustainability outreach efforts by launching a Green Department Challenge.

What first prompted your interest in sustainability?

I was majoring in mechanical engineering but I needed a job. A friend told me she was working as a green campus intern and that you could create your own projects. Sustainability hadn’t crossed my mind before that.  My first project was the laundry room energy audit, and then a “Did You Know” campaign. I realized I could go so much further. I wanted to help show metrics and find an approach that showed how we could make an impact, so I took on greenhouse gas emissions inventory as a sustainability assistant with UC Merced’s Facilities Department. I went from energy savings to climate neutrality. At the time, I didn’t know what that was!

How did you get up to speed?

I did a lot of reading and (UC Merced’s former Director of Energy and Sustainability) John Elliott showed me. When I was done with the one project he hired me for, he told me I could develop any projects I wanted to do. It was a great opportunity. I ended up staying in that position for three years, just taking care of projects like the charts for the Climate Action Plan and learning about LEED Existing Building certification

How did you ultimately decide that job in sustainability would be a good fit for you?

I participated in Bobcat Day and went to (Waste Reduction/Recycling Coordinator) Matt Hirota’s booth, where I ended up talking to prospective students and their parents about sustainability — our energy efficient buildings, the solar array and more. I enjoyed telling people how great our campus is. It was fun and I thought, "This is what I want to do."

Tell us about some of your current and planned projects.

Since I’m working on a one-year contract, I’m trying to do as much as I can. My top projects as coordinator are to complete the LEED Existing Building certification of the library, develop a sustainability outreach program and launch a Green Department Challenge.

Once we achieve LEED certification for new construction, we have to get recertified as an existing building. Part of that is to get people to document what they’re doing and help them understand that it helps create a process to follow.

The Green Department Challenge is about changing people’s habits and idea of sustainability and reaching a baseline of understanding. It’s a set of guidelines to bring sustainability into your work place. I’d offer suggestions for departments and individuals, such as creating a print management program or rechargeable battery stations and even computer setting modifications to conserve energy. Whatever I can do to make this campus better, I will.

Spotlight is a new feature that we hope you will all contribute toward. It is meant to be an interactive Q&A with a UC Merced staff or faculty member. Jason Souza, general manager of Dining Services, will be highlighted in the next edition of Panorama. Let us know if you have someone you would like us to include for a future Spotlight by contacting communications@ucmerced.edu.