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Sustainability at Scripps


Scripps Institution of Oceanography is committed to UC San Diego's mandate to become a zero-waste campus by 2020. Staff, students, and faculty at Scripps formed the "SIO for Sustainability" group in order to translate Scripps's world-renowned research on climate change, ocean health, and global conservation into tangible daily sustainable practices on our campus. Simple changes to our daily routines can add up to a significant impact and make Scripps a leader in conservation as well as ocean, earth, and atmospheric research.

Please read below for information on waste collection (recycling, compost, special items), zero-waste projects, upcoming sustainability events, and ways to get involved.

Monthly Highlight | Waste Collection Programs | Events | Utensils/Dishwasher Calendar and Form












Roger's Urban FarmLab anaerobic digester (left) and compost bins (right) handle all of the food waste composted at Scripps

Spring 2020 Sustainability Highlight:

Scripps composting is back!

In February, the Scripps composting system came back into operation! Composting of any food waste generated around Scripps, as well as food prep at Pinpoint Cafe and Caroline's Cafe, is now collected and transported to Roger's Urban FarmLab (Revelle College, UCSD main campus). RUF has an anaerobic digester that can process large quantities of all food types and paper napkins and plate (although unfortunately NO 'compostable' plant-based dishware). The composting products are used in the RUF community gardens. We are thrilled to return to our compost system and to keep our food waste 'in-house' and local!

The Scripps composting system relies on a system of dedicated volunteers to empty 5-gallon food waste buckets from building kitchenettes and labs 1-2 times per week. UCSD's Resource Management and Planning group then transports the larger food waste collection bins up to RUF. Birch Aquarium also contributes to the compost program, particularly with their animal husbandry waste (aka 'fish guts' from feeding the aquarium animals), which is very nutrient-rich. Scripps' Nimitz Marine Facility (MarFac) also maintains a compost program! We are stoked to have such wonderful community participation in collecting our food waste. Compost collection is an essential part of UCSD's 2020 Zero Waste goal, as well as California's larger goal to reduce food waste and food insecurity. 

Please contact Laura Lilly ( if you would like to host a compost bucket in your building or kitchenette. 

Kitchenette compost bucket. All food waste and napkins can be accepted!



December 2019: Scripps Sustainability featured at COP 25 in Madrid, Spain


Scripps student Julia Dohner (white jacket, center) prepares to speak at the COP25 press conference on "Students Doing Goal-Oriented Science for the Sustainable Development Goals - SDG 2: Zero Hunger"

From December 2-13, 2019, Scripps students and faculty attended the 25th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. COP is an annually-occurring session that brings together delegates from around the world to implement global and national steps to address climate change.

Scripps Sustainability was featured at COP 25 in a press conference led by Colorado State University on “Students Doing Goal-Oriented Science for the Sustainable Development Goals—SDG 2: Zero Hunger”. Julies Dohner, a Scripps Ph.D. student, presented on various Scripps Sustainability efforts and programs. She emphasized the Scripps Composting Program in the context of food waste reduction and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 of Zero Hunger. For the past two years, Scripps has partnered with UCSD’s Roger’s Urban FarmLab to utilize an anaerobic digester to process food waste generated by Scripps. This effort has been an important step in the University of California-wide Zero Waste 2020 mandate. Julia enjoyed sharing the successes and challenges of the Scripps composting program and hearing about similar student-run programs at Colorado State University and Clark University. She noted that their composting programs have generated a lot of user interest and also student eagerness to participate in sustainability programs. Julia also highlighted some of the other Scripps Sustainability waste reduction programs, including: our push for zero-waste events, food packaging reduction by caterers and vendors, our water bottle refill stations to reduce plastic bottle use, and the Pinpoint Café mug-share program.

Julia reiterated a message she heard at a talk on "Singapore Youth for Climate Action: Transforming Climate Science to Climate Action," which emphasized that universities are perfect "mini-cities" for testing and pushing forward green technologies. She noted that “It made me realize how universities, which, at a smaller and more manageable-scale than cities and with more autonomy in decision-making, can truly be trailblazers and models for larger systems in terms of their sustainability goals and solutions.” Thank you, Julia, for helping to share the work and goals of Scripps Sustainability!


Farewell to Allyson Long!

Allyson Long (right), the former Scripps Safety and Sustainability Coordinator, was instrumental in implementing many sustainability initiatives around Scripps

In January, we said farewell to Allyson Long, our wonderful Scripps Safety and Sustainability Coordinator for the past three years, Allyson is headed to Seattle to work with SpaceX, where she will be a part of their Environmental Health and Safety team. 

Allyson has been instrumental in implementing numerous sustainability practices around Scripps over the past several years. She organized a 'soft plastics and other special recyclable items' pickup program and the Scripps composting system, and worked closely with Roger's Urban FarmLab on compost quality and acceptable items. She was an important liaison to Caroline's and PinPoint Cafes for encouraging food prep composting, switching to plant-based dishware, and implementing a coffee mug-sharing program at PinPoint. Allyson also developed and managed the reusable dishware checkout program, under which anyone at Scripps can borrow a set of reusable dishware for events to avoid single-use plastics. Additionally, Allyson organized and ran the Biannual Scripps Garage Swaps in April and October, numerous other Earth Week events, and the Scripps group for the International Coastal Cleanup Day every September. Allyson even advocated for the development of this sustainability webpage!

Most of all, Allyson was a constant and energetic resource for sustainability, and shared much knowledge with Scripps about current and upcoming policy changes and local resources. We thank Allyson for developing important contacts with the broader UCSD community to promote campus-wide sustainability, and for helping Scripps implement steps toward waste reduction and a cleaner earth and ocean. 

Scripps is in the process of hiring a new Safety and Sustainability Coordinator. In the meantime, we are carrying forward many of the programs Allyson helped start!

Waste Collection Programs


The Scripps composting program is back! We currently accept ALL food waste and paper napkins/plates. NO 'compostable' plant-based dishware!!!

Building locations for 5-gallon compost bins: 

  • SIO Admin Building (kitchenette)
  • Sverdrup Hall (1st floor kitchenette)
  • Nierenberg Hall (3rd floor kitchenette)
  • Isaacs Hall (1st floor, 3rd floor kitchenette)
  • T-25 Building
  • Pinpoint Cafe (eating deck)
  • Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility (MarFac)
  • Birch Aquarium

More coming soon!


GENERAL: Blue bins are located in every building for recyclable items.

SPECIAL ITEMS (see map of locations):

  • Batteries

  • Writing instruments - ballpoint pens, highlighters, whiteout pens, markers

  • E-waste - Small items can be dropped off with Allyson Long in the Scripps Admin building. Collection bins for larger items are available in several buildings on a bi-monthly schedule.

Note: Coffee cups, No. 6 plastic ‘to-go’ boxes, and food-contaminated recyclables, are NOT recyclable. See the full list of non-recyclable items.


Cigarette Butts

Although UC San Diego is a smoke-free campus, cigarette butts still make their way to Scripps. Our top goal is to keep butts from going into the ocean. Please use our butt disposal containers (see map of collection locations).


Campus recycling guide (PDF)

Water Bottle Refill Stations

Water bottle refill stations are available in the following locations:

  • Birch Aquarium (next to Gift Shop)
  • Deep Sea Drilling West (next to restrooms)
  • Eckart 2nd floor (next to restrooms)
  • Hubbs Hall (1st floor, adjacent to elevator)
  • Hydraulics Lab (next to restroom)
  • New Scripps Admin building (lobby)
  • Nierenberg Hall (3rd floor hallway)
  • Riiter Hall (1st floor, adjacent to elevator)
  • Sverdrup Hall (1st floor, west side)
  • Vaughan Hall (2nd floor, east side)

‚ÄčIT IS ESSENTIAL to follow COMPOSTING and RECYCLING GUIDELINES. If non-compostable items contaminate the compost, the program will be fined or terminated.

Compost bins are emptied 1-2 times per week into green 32-gallon collection bins located in the Ritter Hall Service Yard. 

SIO for Sustainability currently maintains the program via a volunteer network. Our ultimate goal is to integrate composting into the overall Scripps waste collection system.

Zero-Waste Events

As part of UC San Diego's goal of zero waste by 2020, we are working to reduce single-use disposables at Scripps meetings and events. We recognize the challenges of catering to large numbers of people without using disposable products, but we have several options help you reduce your disposable footprint when you host events. Contact Allyson Long ( or Laura Lilly ( to arrange any of the following:


  • Dishware and mug-share set available for check-out (meetings up to 20 people. 48 hour notice required to reserve) 
  • Compost/recycling bins and signs for food events
  • Reusable champagne glasses at Surfside 


Future additions: 

  • Dishware set for larger meetings
  • Dishwasher available to Scripps community for post-meeting clean-up
  • Sustainable catering options
Scripps Open House 2019 for prospective graduate students was a completely zero-waste event, thanks to steps such as the compost, recycling, and reusable napkin bins shown here

Sustainability Programs

Green Labs Certification

UC San Diego's Green Labs program helps laboratories reduce their environmental footprint without compromising research or safety. This program was formed in 2013 to engage laboratory faculty, staff, and students in performing assessments, reducing waste and improving recycling, replacing inefficient equipment, and transitioning to more sustainable practices.

UC San Diego has joined the California Climate Action Registry and is committed to reaching carbon neutrality. Please consider becoming Green Certified through the Green Office and Green Labs programs. Both certifications only require a brief initial online survey to get started. 

Congratulations on the following Scripps certifications!

Platinum certification

  • Scripps Director's Office
  • Jensen Lab

Gold Certification

  • Bowman Lab
  • CA Sea Grant Office
  • Flick/Carter Lab
  • Gerwick Lab
  • Moore Lab
  • Scripps Department

Silver Certification

  • Birch Aquarium Administration Office
  • Choy Lab
  • Human Resources
  • Scripps Human Resources
  • SIO Pelagic Invertebrate Collection

Bronze Certification

  • Bartlett Lab
  • Birch Aquarium Education Office, Exhibits Office, and Gift Shop
  • Deheyn Lab
  • Fenical Lab
  • Hastings Lab
  • Hildebrand Lab
  • J. Smith Lab
  • Ohman Lab
  • Vernet Lab

Green Certification

  • Birch Aquarium Visitor Services
  • Norris Lab
  • Scripps Geological Collections

Upcoming Sustainability Events

No events are scheduled for this category.

Get involved!

Join the SIO for Sustainability listserv ('sio-sustainability-g',!forum/sio-sustainability-g) to stay up-to-date on sustainability activities and ways to help out.  

Questions? Contact: Laura Lilly ( 

Other UCSD sustainability resources

Sustainability Media – UCSD and beyond