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 Sustainability Highlight

August 2018: Dr. Phil Bresnahan

Smartfin Project and Bike to Work Month

Phil Bresnahan is an alumnus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Ph.D. program in Applied Ocean Sciences. For his Ph.D. thesis, in Todd Martz's lab, Phil developed and applied autonomous in situ inorganic carbon sensors to measure ocean acidification at high spatiotemporal resolutions. Phil now works on the Smartfin Project, which designs surfboard and standup paddleboard fins with GPS-equipped physical and chemical sensors that measure oceanographic parameters (temperature, wave characteristics, pH) of the nearshore surfzone while people surf.

In June 2018, Phil undertook what he called Bike to Surf Month (modeled after the popular Bike to Work Month). Every day for the entire month, Phil picked a different surf spot along San Diego’s coastline and transported himself there and back solely by bike (stopping to surf, of course!). Phil explains his idea for the monthlong self-challenge by noting that he had spent over 95% of his surf sessions at one spot in San Diego: Scripps. While walking out of the office straight to the beach for a lunchtime surf is pure joy, Phil felt that his progress was limited by only surfing one place. He wanted to check out other breaks in San Diego, but the thought of driving his car – pumping out more CO2 on his way to enjoy a natural setting and measure CO2-induced changes in the ocean while surfing – just seemed wrong. So Phil challenged himself to bike to each spot instead.

Phil surfed 31 times in 30 days and covered 869 miles by bike and surfboard. He went as far south as Imperial Beach and as far north as Oceanside Pier. He (only) had four or five flat tires, and he used a Smartfin every time he surfed. He saw old friends in Del Mar and Encinitas and met new people on the waves and the road. Some of the strangest questions he got where: Was he on an electric bike? (a big compliment, since it meant he was keeping up with non-surfboard-bikers); Had he figured out how to use his surfboard as a sail for his bike? (Not yet, but also a compliment); And why was he wearing a fanny pack out on the water? (it’s hard to lock up your wallet on your bike while you’re surfing!). You can visit Phil’s blog for daily details of his excursion and the bike gear he used.

One of Phil’s important realizations (or perhaps remembrances) was that we can have plenty of adventures in our own backyards. Phil calls this pursuit ‘micro-adventures’, where, instead of hopping on a plane to a distant country or buying a bunch of gear to go “have an adventure”, you can find excitement at home using a little creativity to try something new or pursue familiar activities from new angles. Phil’s best advice for creating micro-adventures? Just start! Pick something you’ve been thinking about and try that. Who knows where it will lead you? That’s the adventure.

All geared up to bike and surf at Windansea
All geared up to bike and surf at Windansea
Phil celebrates reaching Day 10 of Bike to Surf Month
Phil celebrates reaching Day 10 of Bike to Surf Month

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


  • NO plastic or metal
  • NO compostable containers or utensils (the composting facility cannot process them)



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.


Campus recycling guide (PDF)

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).

Water Bottle Refill Stations

Water bottle refill stations are available in the following locations: Eckart 2nd floor (next to restrooms), Deep Sea Drilling West (next to restrooms), New Scripps Admin building (lobby). In addition, every building has drinking fountains. 


‚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 staff member Sarah Heim demonstrates that a disposable-free and locally-sourced TG is possible!

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

  • Director's Office

Gold Certification

  • Bowman Lab
  • Gerwick Lab
  • Moore Lab

Silver Certification

  • Jensen Lab
  • Human Resources

Bronze Certification

  • Deheyn Lab
  • Hastings Lab
  • Hildebrand Lab
  • Vernet Lab

Green Certification

  • Fenical Lab
  • Norris Lab
  • Scripps Geological Collections

Scripps Bike Group

The Bike Commute Support Group encourages and facilitates biking as the most fun, healthy, economical, and sustainable way to get to Scripps. The group provides a forum for bikers to meet, ask for help, and organize events. The group collaborates with SIO for Sustainability on sustainable transportation advocacy, notably Bike to Work Month in May.

A recent TG event hosted by SIO for Sustainability and the Staff Sustainability Network (SSN) featured an electric bike demo.

Contacts and Resources

Contact the Bike Group with any other ideas! Potential future activities include: advocacy for local bike infrastructure/safety, fun community rides, Bike Trains (example)

Reducing Environmental Footprints at UCSD

Scripps Coral Garden at Eckart Building

Nina Rosen and Brant Chlebowski, alumni of the Scripps MAS Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Class of 2017, developed the idea to build a drought-tolerant succulent garden evoking underwater coral reefs outside of Scripps's Eckart Library building.

The garden is part of the Scripps Coastal Meander, which makes up a portion of the California Coastal Trail. The pair has worked with numerous collaborators from Scripps, including the Facilities and Management Division and the Jennifer Smith and Stuart Sandin Labs at Scripps, to construct the garden to accurately convey an underwater coral environment.

Specific succulents were chosen for their similarity to coral species, and the garden is separated into zones that mimic an actual reef crest, fore reef, and lagoon.


MAS MBC alum Brant Chlebowski adds succulents to the Scripps Coral Garden.

UC San Diego HDH eliminates plastic straws

As part of its goal of zero waste by 2020, UCSD's Housing, Dining, and Hospitality services (HDH) will no longer be offering plastic straws.

All types of straws will be unavailable in summer 2018, and paper straws only will be available upon request in fall 2018. 


Upcoming Sustainability Events

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 Resources and Media

"Walk the Talk" - a video about sustainability efforts around the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Created by MAS MBC alumni (Class of 2018) Hillary Eggers and Lori Mendez.

"Bending the Curve" by UC San Diego Prof. Veerabhadran Ramanathan. 


Sustainability News and Resources

Marine Plastic Pollution blog: