April 15, 2011
By Stephanie Thara
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 936 buildings and a $130 million annual utility budget. For 30 years, the CSU’s commitment to sustainability has grown in reach and scope. In fact, its Access to Excellence strategic plan adopted in 2008 identifies sustainability as a major public need to be systematically integrated into teaching, service, research and facilities management.
The CSU has worked to reduce the system's environmental impact and carbon footprint through a myriad of sustainability practices, such as the following:
- Building design and operations: The CSU has constructed more energy-efficient buildings on various CSU campuses and has instituted programs that control the energy consumption of university buildings.
- Green energy generation: Through a combination of solar, cogeneration, wind and fuel cell sources, the CSU hopes to reach and exceed a goal of 50 megawatts of on-site power generation.
- Research centers and institutions: The CSU has nearly 30 centers and institutes dedicated to environmental and energy issues, and an additional 18 centers and institutes are dedicated to agriculture or water.
- Degree programs: Campuses offer more than 150 environmentally related degrees and certificates, from crop science, land management and wildlife to forestry and coastal policy.
- Community service: Students annually dedicate more than 32 million hours to community service and are actively engaged in service-learning projects that promote sustainable practices.
- Water conservation: Across the system, the CSU has implemented measures to conserve water and reduce consumption, such as installing irrigation control systems and retrofitting plumbing fixtures with low-flow or waterless fixtures, among other efforts.
- Alternative transportation: The CSU has partnered with community organizations to encourage the use of buses, bikes and ride-sharing to reduce the influx of carbon dioxide emissions.
- Local food options: Campuses have made a conscious effort to facilitate local and organic food offerings at dining halls, reducing the transportation impact that would otherwise be incurred.
- Recycling/waste reduction: Through participation in programs such as e-waste recycling events and RecycleMania contests, CSU campuses have implemented a variety of measures to reduce waste at the source, recycle the waste generated, and educate the campus community on the importance of adopting waste-reduction measures.
- Community education: Establishing agricultural-based centers that highlight the importance of conservation and hosting sustainability events that involve local high school students competing to win “green knowledge” are just some efforts of how the CSU involves and educates the community about keeping California green.