Public Affairs, The California State University

Building a Greener University

By Stephanie Thara

The California State University is looking to save the world…one sustainable effort at a time. From creating biodiesel fuel to becoming a zero waste campus, the CSU is striving to significantly reduce the University’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

The CSU has made strides in creating sustainability programs that demonstrate the positive impacts of living a greener lifestyle. Efforts have been developed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and the amount of water used on campuses and at the Chancellor’s Office. Campuses have also successfully implemented sustainable practices in food service and building operations. For example:

  • Chico State StudentsCommitted to becoming a completely zero waste campus, Chico State has expanded sustainable food practices on campus such as purchasing locally grown food, making organic products available to students and properly disposing food waste. In 2013, Chico State composted 422,000 pounds and recycled nearly 150,000 pounds of material from dining facilities on campus.
  • CSU Dominguez Hills has installed over 400 light sensors throughout the campus since 2012, saving the university more than $13,000 a year in energy costs. With sensors installed in outdoor areas, offices, classrooms, conference rooms, hallways and computer labs, light levels can be easily adjusted to the individual user’s preference. The sensors also automatically adjust to the varying daylight levels and shuts off when no body temperature is detected in the room. In the past 12 months, there has been a 78 percent energy savings in just the hallways alone.

In addition to on-campus green power generation and controlling energy consumption in university buildings, the CSU is expanding sustainability practices to give students a chance to solve real-world environmental challenges. For instance:

  • Sac State SustainabilitySacramento State’s Sustainable Technology Outdoor Research Center (STORC) provides resources for students and faculty from a wide array of disciplines to work together and create a more sustainable campus. At STORC, students are involved in real-world experimental learning by participating in various sustainable technology projects such as converting kitchen oil from Sac State eateries into biodiesel fuel, developing a solar water purification system and making a bio-toilet that composts human waste so it can be used as fertilizer.
  • The Power, Energy and Transportation lab at Cal State L.A. give students the tools to become experts in everything from alternative fuel vehicles to power generation. By providing students access to resources such as engines and wind turbines, students have been able to build supermileage vehicles, help install solar panels around campus and contribute to the development of the new Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility which will open May 7.