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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

Spring 2020: Stay-at-Home Sustainability!

Our world has changed rapidly and dramatically with the onset of the novel coronavirus. Substantial global decreases in driving and flying has reduced our collective CO2 output temporarily (see this article about Ralph Keeling's work at Scripps), but we still need to change our daily habits in the long-term to reduce waste and carbon emissions. Below are a few activities you can do at home to reduce your waste and energy use!

1. Compost programs

While the Scripps composting program is on hold due to campus shutdown from COVID-19, here are other options to continue composting food waste: 
i) Home compost programs - vouchers for compost bins are available through the City of San Diego! 
ii) Roger's Urban FarmLab - compost drop-off available!! Stop by RUF (located behind The Che Cafe, Scholars Drive South, UCSD campus)
iii) Composting collectives - run by Inika's Food2Soil program. They have drop-off bins around San Diego. Requires signup for monthly membership, for which you receive a code to unlock the padlocked bins. Please use proper protective equipment (gloves, mask, handwashing) if you drop off to these!

2. Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) organic produce boxes

Locally-sourced, in-season, organic produce. Also a great way to support local farmers!

3. Air-dry laundry

Washing and drying clothes uses 5-10% of a household's total electricity. Take advantage of our warm spring weather to air-dry your clothes instead of using a machine! This method also preserves your clothes for longer and reduces the microfibers that they shed, which are a major source of plastic pollution to the ocean!

- Tip: If you don't have a drying rack, you can set up clotheslines in your bathroom, on a balcony, or in front of a window

4. Save packing materials and 'soft' plastics for future recycling

When you receive a delivery, store the packing materials and any other soft plastics (e.g., plastic wrap) in a bag or bin, and drop them off at the specialty recycling locations around Scripps or at the UCSD ‚ÄčSustainability Resources Center. We will announce when this program is up and running again!

5. Plant vegetables and herbs

This is a fun home activity and a great way to grow your own organic foods. You can also cut down on plastic containers from supermarkets by making some of your own seasonings and spreads
- Tip: You can use old yogurt containers or even egg cartons as pots!

6. Support local/sustainable restaurants

Many restaurants are continuing to practice every possible sustainable behavior (paper takeout bags, non-styrofoam takeout containers, locally-sourced ingredients) during the current upheaval.
- Check Surfrider's Ocean-Friendly Restaurants page for a list of restaurants!

7. Fun tips and songs from Roger's Urban FarmLab (UCSD)

           - YouTube channel:

           - Facebook page (food canning tips, etc.):

8. Enjoy the beauty of nature!

- Take a walk, run, or bike ride to enjoy fresh air (please maintain adequate distance from other people)
- Take up a 'nature hobby': bird or plant identification, cloud photography
- Sort through old nature photographs

Waste Collection Programs


The Scripps composting program is CURRENTLY ON HOLD with the UCSD campus closure due to COVID-19. Stay tuned for an announcement when the program comes back!

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

  • Packing materials (bubble wrap, padded envelopes)

  • Soft plastics (bags, Saran wrap)

  • Candy/energy bar wrappers

  • 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.

The UCSD Sustainability Resources Center has a full list of 'specialty' recyclable items that they accept


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)

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).

‚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 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