Campus: CSU Chico -- October 6, 2004

University to Embark on a Sustainability Assessment

California State University, Chico is embarking on a campus sustainability assessment. The assessment is part of a campus-wide effort to establish CSU, Chico as a “green” campus, according to Mark Stemen, coordinator of Environmental Studies.

The University has contracted with Good Company, an assessment firm from Oregon, to help with the project. They were selected because of their experience with sustainability in higher education.

The firm will be working with faculty, students and staff to collect data on 15 indicators of sustainability. Good Company will then compare figures with best practices from universities across the nation. Their findings will provide insights into how CSU, Chico is doing on various indicators (indoor air quality, for example) and include recommendations for how to improve.

The goal is to quantify items ranging from energy use to waste production to transportation. “We are assessing what we buy, what we build and if these acquisitions are moving toward or away from sustainability,” said Stemen. “Further, we are asking the same questions about what we teach and how we govern,” said Stemen.

While other colleges have performed environmental assessments, CSU, Chico is the first in the nation to do so as a service-learning project. “We have asked Good Company to include students and faculty in the process, so we can learn as we go,” said Stemen.

Students in the environmental studies program are in the process of interviewing staff on the operations of the campus. In the spring, staff from the Office of Facilities Management will provide information in an environmental literacy seminar about how the University works. The projected release date for the sustainability assessment is late April.

Greg Francis, executive dean and director of Facilities Planning, said, “We are trying to make the campus more sustainable in all ways, such as the ecological approach to building the new student activities center, our recycling programs and energy conservation. Our day-to-day activities, however, are equally important. Sustainability is largely an educational process—each of us has to learn to think differently about our daily actions. The sustainability study will give us information about where we stand now and what we can do; it will help us educate ourselves.”

This study will give students experience in examining campus operations, gathering and tabulation of data. “It is exciting,” said Francis. “We are beginning to merge the physical changes we need to make with changes in behavior.”

"I am optimistic about our efforts,” said Stemen, “because research has shown that schools that have support from top administrators have the best track record in implementing recommendations from a sustainability assessment. I’m happy to note that both the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Scott McNall, and the vice president for Business and Finance, Dennis Graham, have provided support for this project.”

If you have questions about the sustainability assessment, call Mark Stemen, Department of Geography and Planning, 530-898-5428.

Contacts: Kathleen McPartland, 530-898-4260
Mark Stemen, Geography and Planning, 530-898-5428

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