Strategic Communication & Engagement

At UCSB, there’s a lot going on around campus sustainability. From UCSB Sustainability to the more than 40 environmental student organizations, many folks are interested in achieving carbon neutrality at UCSB, but how can all the different groups work together best to reach this goal?

Carbon Zero aimed to find out. We performed an assessment of student and administrative sentiment towards the CNI as well as researched the policy-making process at UCSB. Through a mixed- methods approach of interviews, focus groups, and a campus-wide survey, we explored the lack of campus engagement and action due to a general misunderstanding of the CNI’s goals and value. Relevant stakeholders were unsure how they could contribute to the initiative given their current roles and were unable to measure the impact of their actions. We provided information directed to relevant stakeholders on how to better work together during the decision-making process in order to bridge information gaps among students, administrators, and faculty.

One question we were interested in answering is whether or not student opinion matters in the decision-making process at UCSB. We confirmed in our research that it overwhelmingly does. The step necessary to make the CNI a reality is to engage and coordinate with one of the most important, if not the most important, stakeholder group on campus – students. Below we outlined our recommendations for campus to boost awareness, engagement, collaboration, and progress towards the CNI with an emphasis on how administrators can best facilitate student involvement in UCSB decision-making:

For Students: 

  • Utilize known pathways to make change. Directly influence UCSB’s environmental impact, CNI planning, and sustainability legacy through committee membership.
  • Target audiences willing to engage with the CNI and employ informal communication methods.
  • Reach out to campus administrators if you support a project.

For Administrators:

  • Recruit, engage, and retain more students on committees through targeted outreach and clear guidelines.
  • Streamline messaging of the CNI at the UCOP level.
  • Target CNI messaging to environmental students and organizations first and encourage them to utilize their informal peer-to-peer routes of communication.
  • Take advantage of “low hanging fruit” opportunities that can have big impacts on incentivizing students to take action.
  • Align UCSB’s core mission of teaching and research with topics of the CNI that resonate with students.
  • Incorporate zero-net energy building criteria and emissions benchmarking into the planning, design, and retrofitting processes and long-term vision at UCSB.

Students are interested and willing to engage with the CNI, but need to be provided information on how they can make a meaningful difference as well as information on avenues by which they can voice their opinions. We identified these avenues and will provide this information to both administrators and students in order to influence the decision-making process.

“When students speak, it carries a lot of weight…We recognize that they are the future. It’s their future.”

– UCSB Administrator