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

Roberta Goldpenny from CalRecycle discusses the new California state mandates on waste diversion


October 2019: Composting/Recycling Workshop and Bi-Annual Garage Swap

"Compostables, Biodegradables, and Recyclables at UCSD"

On Thursday, Oct. 24, SIO for Sustainability hosted a workshop on “Compostables, Biodegradables, and Recyclables at UCSD”. The workshop featured a panel of waste managers from UCSD and the City of San Diego who provided information about the current state of waste management, recycling practices, and food waste diversion in San Diego, and how current and upcoming changes would impact UCSD. The panel included speakers from:

  • CalRecycle (California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) representatives – brings together California’s waste management and recycling programs and works to inspire state inhabitants to” achieve the highest waste reduction, recycling and reuse metrics in the nation.”
  • EDCO representatives – a family-owned waste and recycling hauler that services areas around Southern California. EDCO is UCSD’s official waste hauler.
  • Jeffrey Summerhays, UCSD Waste Diversion Manager
  • Roger’s Garden/Urban FarmLab – one of UCSD’s campus gardens and the utilizer of Scripps compost collection
  • Sarah Boltwala-Mesina, CEO of Inika Small Earth Food2Soil – a program focused on small-scale, decentralized composting collection that can connect urban residents to composting programs that fuel local farming efforts.

The presentation centered around meeting two upcoming deadlines: the University of California’s Zero Waste by 2020 mandate, which requires all UC campuses to achieve 90% diversion from landfills by 2020; and California’s collection of statewide mandates to significantly reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. California generates 27 million tons of organic waste every year, including 6 million tons of food waste. One of CalRecycle’s goals is to divert that food waste back into food programs for those who are food-insecure (1 in 6 Californians). Some of the key state bills discussed included:

  • AB 341 – a statewide mandatory commercial (including the UC system) recycling system which requires 75% diversion of solid waste statewide by 2020
  • AB 1826 – expanded on AB 341 to include mandatory organic waste recycling by the commercial sector. 35% of California’s waste stream is comprised of organic waste (food scraps, landscape trimmings) which can instead be turned into compost and mulch. The goal is to have 75% diversion of organics statewide by 2020.
  • AB 827 – Businesses (including the UC system) will be required to have front-of-house ‘food management systems’ (i.e., recycling and composting bins) available to customers by July 1, 2020.

EDCO showed a video of their new Escondido recycling center, which has novel methods for sorting and processing almost all types of recyclable materials. One goal of the EDCO facility is to increase local Southern California recycling to accommodate comingled, mixed-stream recycling. 65% of California’s recycled materials used to go to China, which now requires contamination levels of <0.5%.

Scripps Bi-Annual Garage Swap

On Wednesday, Oct. 30, SIO for Sustainability hosted our Bi-Annual Garage Swap, where people can donate and take old clothing, books, and household items. This fall we received quite a few holiday decorations! We had an excellent flow of donators and takers, and we ended up with eight boxes and large bags of items that we donated to Goodwill.

Waste Collection Programs


Five-gallon buckets are located in most building kitchenettes and common spaces (see bin locations map). 


  • ALL food
  • Napkins and paper towels
  • Compostable containers and utensils





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: Allyson Long ( or Laura Lilly ( 

Other UCSD sustainability resources

Sustainability Media – UCSD and beyond