UC Irvine students can boast that they’re attending the greenest university in the U.S.

For the second year in row, the Sierra Club’s magazine has ranked UC Irvine the greenest university in the nation.

The ranking – released Tuesday and calculated from a 200-page questionnaire submitted by 153 colleges and universities nationwide – measured schools based on, among other things, where they get their electricity, academic programs in sustainability, recycling efforts and transportation practices.

In Sierra Magazine’s rankings, UCI was the only school in the country to score above 800 out of 1,000 – getting a score of 860. The runner-up, UC Davis, got 789.

UCI earned especially high marks in energy, transportation and waste.

“It’s pretty hard to score much higher than an 800,” said Avital Andrews, the lifestyle editor for Sierra Magazine and overseer of the rankings. UC Irvine, she added, is “definitely doing better than any other.”

The calculations heavily weigh a school’s electricity choices, and that’s a category in which UCI came out ahead.

In the past year, UCI has quadrupled its solar energy production by adding 11,700 solar panels, reducing carbon emission by 1,500 metric tons. Those panels are part of three on-campus solar projects.

The school also has a 19-megawatt turbine cogeneration power plant. Getting energy from renewable sources is a major component of the rankings.

“We have people dedicated to zero-waste and water preservation projects, alternative energy research and more,” UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said.

Additionally, more than 80 percent of UCI’s campus waste is diverted from landfills, causing the school to fall less than one point short of the maximum for waste management, according to the rankings.

“The sustainability ethic permeates what we do in facilities and infrastructure,” said Wendell Brase, UCI’s vice chancellor for administrative and business services.

The Sierra Club’s rankings also look at a school’s academic commitment to sustainability. More than 200 UCI faculty either research or teach on environmental topics, such as collapsing glaciers, conservation biology, global climate modeling, energy conservation, transportation, land use planning and environmental law. There are also 22 student clubs on campus devoted to environmental issues.

“We have some of the best minds in the world working on these critical issues.” said Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor.

When students are immersed in a campus committed to green lifestyles, research and thinking, they go into the world bearing those values, said Andrews, the Sierra Magazine editor. The rankings seek to reward schools with such a broad approach to sustainability.

“It has to permeate the school,” Andrews said. “It’s not just the buildings and the infrastructure. It’s also the culture.”

The university’s Sustainability Initiative promotes research on the topic while acting as an incubator for environment-oriented projects. The initiative offers public workshops and is a clearinghouse for academic courses in green topics.

Despite a sprawling, 1,475-acre campus situated in a 950-square-mile suburban county that is nearly impossible to navigate without a car, UCI got points from the Sierra Club for offering bus pass discounts and a free shuttle.

Sierra Magazine’s ninth annual rankings will be published in the September-October issue as part of its “Cool Schools” spread. The rankings also will go online and are the biggest traffic generator for the magazine’s website.

Schools in the University of California system – four of which were in the Sierra Club’s top 10 – aren’t making green choices just to court students, cut costs or reduce environmental impact. State law requires UC schools to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

While coastal California schools are able to trim energy use because of a generally mild climate, other schools in other regions have different benefits, Avital said. The University of Washington, for instance, gets 90 percent of its electricity from hydropower, matching statewide trends there.

But Andrews pointed out that UC Irvine and most other schools on the list could improve their ranking by taking endowment investment money out of fossil fuel companies.

Some schools in the United States already are divesting money from companies involved in oil and other fossil fuels. Stanford University is one of about two dozen colleges and universities nationwide that have committed to reducing their investments in carbon companies.

So far, UCI and the UC system overall have resisted calls to follow suit. Instead of eliminating the $10 billion of fossil fuel holdings from its $91 billion investment portfolio, the UC’s Task Force on Sustainable Investing started a program last year to invest $1 billion in profitable solutions to climate change.

In February, UC signed the Montreal Carbon Pledge, which commits the school to measuring and disclosing the carbon footprint of its investments.

“That’s an area a lot of schools have room for improvement,” Avital said.

Cal State Fullerton was ranked 119th on the Sierra Club’s list, the only other school in Orange County to submit information for ranking.

Contact the writer: aorlowski@ocregister.com. Twitter: @aaronorlowski

Want to rent a waterfront Newport Beach home from auto tycoon Fletcher Jones? That’ll be $100,000 a month

A Balboa Peninsula house tied to motorcar magnate Fletcher “Ted” Jones Jr. can be leased for $100,000 a month – the priciest Orange County home rental listed on Zillow.

Built in 2006, the waterfront, Italianate-style house has a large waterside lawn and swimming pool, as well a big private boat dock, according to the listing. The main house and guest house have nearly 10,000 square feet of living space combined.

A home theater, rooms for entertaining and a subterranean wine cellar with a dining area are among the highlights. The property boasts many antique elements, steel doors and designer touches.

The house, as well as Jones’ nine-bedroom estate in Newport Coast’s Pelican Point, are tied through public records to the address of his Fletcher Jones Management Group headquarters in Las Vegas.

The Orange County Business Journal estimates Jones’ worth at $575 million. His flagship operation is Fletcher Jones Motorcars in Newport Beach.

In 2013, CNBC-TV’s “Secret Lives of the Super Rich” featured Jones’ over-the-top Beverly Hills wedding to Darlene Kurtis, Playboy Playmate of the Year in 2002.

Update: Lanes reopen on westbound 22 after collision caused cement truck to overturn

GARDEN GROVE– Several lanes on the westbound 22 freeway were shut Wednesday early morning after a collision triggered a cement truck to reverse and also leakage gas when driving, officials claimed.

California Motorway Patrol and also Garden Grove Fire Division authorities reacted to reports of a two-vehicle accident quickly prior to 10 a.m. on the westbound 22 highway between Haster Street and Fairview Road, fire Capt. Thanh Nguyen stated.

The driver of a cement truck and also one more driver collided on the freeway, creating the vehicle to rescind in the carpool as well as fast street.

Alex Voelker, the motorist of the cement vehicle, stated he rammed the driver of a grey Toyota Tundra. He said the Toyota Tundra driver informed him his left front tire blew, causing him to swerve.

All the involved people rejected clinical treatment, Nguyen claimed.

CHP officials provided a SigAlert at 9:48 a.m. for a minimum of two left streets while officials wash up the gas leakage from the destroyed vehicle.

Authorities removed the highway by 1:30 p.m. as well as raised the street closures during that time, Officer Jon Latosquin said.

Call the author: 714-796-7802 or aduranty@ocregister.com!.?.!

How a Yorba Linda artist’s sculpture of Pope John Paul II might end up at the Vatican

Nohad Sabbagh’s talent as a sculptor revealed itself early in New York City, where she spent most of her childhood after coming to the United States from Egypt with her family. Now her work is getting a shot at recognition at a very high level – the Vatican.

On a recent weekday at the Art-A-Fair Festival, the Yorba Linda resident showed a guest some of her bronze figurines: a ballerina, a horse, a shapely bathing beauty in a 1950s swimsuit. There’s even a dolphin she sculpted from chocolate, sitting atop a chocolate dish filled with chocolate coins for visitors.

Sabbagh often does commissioned work and has even sculpted a bust of President Ronald Reagan, now at the Reagan Library.

The most prominent spot, at the front of the booth, is taken up by the clay mold of a sculpture she’s making of Pope John Paul II, wearing his zucchetto (skullcap), with a watchful gaze on his face. It’s this work that she plans to send to Pope Francis and Vatican City, with the help of a recent visitor to Southern California, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.

Sabbagh has long been an ardent fan of John Paul II.

“He did did a lot of good. He was one of these popes that were open. … He opened up to other religions and other countries … and tried to bring people together,” she said.

When the pope was given sainthood last year, she was inspired to start the work. Her priest, Father Francois Beyrouti of Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church in Placentia, saw the sculpture and told her she should bring it to a banquet in Los Angeles that Cardinal Sandri would be attending.

“I showed it to my priest, and he loved it and he said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but the cardinal is coming.’”

Sandri was in Los Angeles for the naming of St. Anne Melkite Catholic Church in North Hollywood as a co-cathedral, at Pope Francis’ direction. At a banquet last weekend marking the honor, Beyrouti introduced Sabbagh to the cardinal and Bishop Nicholas Samra of Boston, who said he would help her send the sculpture to the Vatican when it’s finished, hopefully by mid-September.

“When I was working on the pope’s head, I was beginning to wonder, ‘I’d love to get it in the Vatican,’” Sabbagh said. “But I didn’t know how to go about doing it. … The Vatican’s huge! It’s a whole city. So with my luck, it’s like God brought them to me,” she said, laughing.

“It’s like God has been guiding my footsteps.”

“It just is like perfect timing that he was coming and she was working on the sculpture,” Father Beyrouti said. “He was very moved by it.”

The statue is especially significant now that Pope John Paul II is a saint, he added.

Sabbagh started early as an artist, taking Saturday art classes when she was still in grade school at Pratt Institute in New York, where she would later earn her degree in sculpture and industrial design.

In high school, she got a push from a sculpture teacher who linked her to a job at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where she helped recreate dinosaur bones.

Sabbagh has created sculptures for Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Mattel, where she made prototypes for the Masters of the Universe figurines. In her Art-A-Fair booth in Laguna Beach hang photos of a younger Sabbagh posing by sculptures of dinosaurs, one of the Seven Dwarfs and clam shells on the original submarine ride at Disneyland.

“I dreamed of doing this,” Sabbagh said of her career. “When I was a little kid, that’s all I wanted to do. … I enjoyed playing my whole life. I was blessed with God’s talent. I just enjoy making things.”

The John Paul II sculpture now is being cast in bronze at a Buena Park foundry.

Whether it’s destined for public display at the Vatican, however, isn’t certain. According to the Rev. Monsignor Arthur A. Holquin, pastor-emeritus of Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, it’s not unusual for the Vatican to receive unsolicited artwork.

“As to whether it will be displayed publicly is a totally separate issue. … Many of these (artworks) end up in the Vatican museum storage vaults to be displayed on a rotation basis,” Holquin said, adding that he hasn’t seen the work Sabbagh created.

In the meantime, the clay mold for the statue catches people’s attention at the Art-A-Fair show.

“People love it,” Sabbagh said. “They love the way I capture him. They just tell me I nailed it.”

Contact the writer: aboessenkool@ocregister.com

Police: Suspects in Newport Beach theater panic had leaf blower

The suspects who entered a Newport Beach theater brandishing what panicked moviegoers thought was a chainsaw actually had a leaf blower, police said Monday.

Investigators are searching for as many as three male subjects who “entered the theater with the intention of scaring movie-goers.”

At 10:50 p.m. on Saturday night during a showing of psychological thriller “The Gift” at Edwards Big Newport 6, officers received several 911 calls, said Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

“Callers reported that two or more men had entered a theater with some type of loud, hand held machine, later determined to be a leaf-blower,” Manzella said in a statement Monday.

Officers arrived to the complex, which is across the street from Fashion Island, set up a perimeter and searched the area but did not find anyone.

Investigators found that the suspects had arranged to open the emergency exit door from the inside at the front of the theater screening the movie. One of the suspects who was outside then went into the theater through the emergency door, holding a leaf-blower over his head.

“The suspect yelled, shook the leaf-blower, and revved the leaf-blower’s engine to create a loud and disturbing noise,” Manzella said.

Some people on social media posts said they saw a rifle, but Manzella said firearms were not involved. Still, she said she can understand why people were scared.

“Right now with movie theaters being in the news, people’s minds go there,” Manzella said.

The incident happened one day after a jury sentenced James E. Holmes to life in prison with no chance of parole for a 2012 shooting rampage that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater.

The last similar incident in Orange County was in 2008, when an Anaheim man stabbed two strangers at a Fullerton movie theater. Steven Walter Robinson Jr., 30, was found guilty of two felony counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation in that case.

In Saturday’s scare, police were able to confirm that the suspects had a leaf blower from witnesses in the theater who were close to the action, Manzella said.

The suspects, described by police as white or Hispanic males in their late teens to early 30s, quickly fled through the same emergency exit, which had already activated an alarm summoning theater management.

Meanwhile, scared patrons rushed out of the theater, some of them getting injured in the haste to flee from the supposed danger.

One such person was 23-year-old Kyndall Aldama of Huntington Beach.

“All of a sudden, someone opened the emergency exit and yelled ‘I’ve got a chainsaw’ and cranked it up,” Aldama said Sunday. “No one got up. Then he cranked it again, and everyone started screaming. Someone else yelled they saw a gun.”

Aldama, who was seated in the middle of the theater, said she was pushed to the ground and trampled in the melee.

“At least eight people just stepped on and over me. Everyone thought it was like ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’” she said.

Newport Beach police said three people suffered minor injuries during the scare. No arrest have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

“These guys wanted to scare moviegoers and were effective,” Manzella said. “We’re doing everything we can to identify these people … and make a case for the (District Attorney) to decide on charges.”

Anyone with information about the incident or suspects is asked to contact Detective Joshua Vincelet at 949-644-3779 or jvincelet@nbpd.org. Tips may also be left anonymously on the Newport Beach Police Department’s tip hotline at 1-800-550-NBPD.

Staff writer Erika I. Ritchie contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: afausto@ocregister.com