Things are looking green for UCSB this coming academic year as the university ramps up its sustainability programs.

To get its students off on the right foot with its greener priorities, UCSB will launch a Sustainability Blitz next week.

“What we’re trying to do as students come back from summer vacation is to get everyone excited about the efforts that have already taken place and then really take off on the successes,” said Ron Cortez, associate vice chancellor for administrative services.

While the university has been incorporating greener standards and practices on its campus through its campus sustainability plan, the selection of Cortez to head the movement signals the university’s intentions to make a comprehensive push toward sustainability.

UCSB recently scored 94 out of 99 points in the Princeton Review for top green colleges. 

The 2008-09 academic year begins with Celine Cousteau, the daughter of ocean explorer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau and granddaughter of the legendary Jacques Cousteau at the new-student convocation on Monday. According to the university, she is expected to address environmental issues in the keynote address.

There will also be a screening that day in Campbell Hall presented by Cousteau and her father about the work of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society.

Chancellor Henry Yang, who last spring announced the adoption of the campus sustainability plan, also will speak at the convocation.

According to Cortez, green will continue to be the theme for the rest of the academic year, as the university intends to present its goals, progress and ideas through various media and displays throughout campus. Students will be invited to participate in UCSB’s endeavor to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water, become more energy efficient and “leave no footprint behind.”

“There’s other things we can continue to do,” said Cortez, who said a sustainability committee will be appointed in a few weeks. One of the first programs the university is planning to roll out is with local trash hauler MarBorg Industries to develop a food-waste composting program, which ideally would compost both food and biodegradable packaging on campus.

“One of the bigger projects will be our investigation of alternative energy,” he said.

At the end of the 2008-09 academic year, UCSB will host the 2009 Sustainability for California’s Higher Education Coalition: University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges conference. It will be held June 21-24.

The effort also will go beyond campus into the local community, said Cortez, who’s planning a forum, probably at the end of the academic year, where local businesses and the university can contribute concerns and ideas.

“We’re all tied together anyway,” Cortez said. “We all live on the South Coast, and it’s important for us to share any information we have, especially with small business, because they’re not going to have the resources a large corporation may have.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at