UCLA is currently ranked 37 out of 450 in a nationwide contest to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

Because global warming poses such a threat, college students should make efforts to live greener, said Adam Sandler, campaign manager for America’s Greenest Campus, the name of the contest.

Launched in March and ending in October, university faculty, students and alumni are competing across the country. Sandler said there are a number of simple steps students can take to improve the environment and reduce carbon emissions, offering an example of some of the excesses college students sometimes are guilty of.

“When we would party in college, we drank beer out of these red plastic cups,” he said.

UCLA has taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce its carbon footprint, including eliminating mercury-based instruments in hospitals, recycling old electronics and installing solar water-heating devices in some residence halls, according to the UCLA Sustainability Web site.

Despite these actions, UCLA still remains in 37th place in the contest and has only 21 registered participants, according to the America’s Greenest Campus Web site. By contrast, the University of Maryland at College Park, which is in first place, has over 1,500 participants.

Amy Neal, a UCLA alumna who is participating in the contest, explained that she would like to see more involvement from UCLA.

“UCLA is such a huge campus. If everyone came together they would get to see the huge impact they would be making on the environment as a community,” Neal said.

Holger Brix, an assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences who teaches a course on climate change at UCLA, said it is important for people to understand how humans contribute to the greenhouse effect in order to learn how to live greener.

Brix said solar radiation reaches Earth, where it is absorbed and re-emitted as terrestrial radiation.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone interact with and prevent this radiation from escaping the atmosphere, thereby increasing the rate of global warming.

“The consequence of global warming is that shifts in climate zones will occur. Precipitation will intensify, areas will get colder or hotter, and some areas might be flooded if sea levels rise,” Brix said.

Four hundred and fifty colleges and 10,000 individuals are actively participating, according to a statement by Premier Web Designs that was released in June.

So far 5.9 million pounds in carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced, and 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of energy have been saved.

Awards of $5,000 will be given to the schools with the greatest reduction in carbon dioxide output and the most participation.

In addition to these prizes, $10,000 will be awarded to the winners of the SmartPower Energy Smart Ad Challenge, a related competition in which students from each school will direct a commercial about reducing carbon dioxide.

Sandler said he believes a lot of smaller colleges have beaten UCLA because smaller schools have a more tightly knit community. Therefore these schools are able to bring people together more easily.

But he said UCLA’s size should not defeat its chances of winning. If more students realize that even a little bit of effort can make a difference, he said, then UCLA will not only improve its place in the contest, but will also make that much more of a difference in improving the health of the planet.