Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU Staying Sustainable

By Stephanie Thara

Hands grabbing soil Campuses continually implement sustainable practices that further the CSU’s commitment to promoting a more economically and ecologically viable California. Whether it’s constructing buildings that have earned LEED gold certifications, hosting events and classes that focus on green living or encouraging composting in the dining halls, each of the 23 CSU campuses has made efforts to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Fueling Up

Installed in 2011 as a collaborative project with Pacific Gas and Electric, San Francisco State’s fuel cell plant has saved the campus thousands of dollars in heating costs and has helped reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions. Cal State L.A. has received $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to collect and analyze performance data from its new hydrogen fueling station to help businesses determine how to bring hydrogen and fuel cell technologies into the marketplace at lower cost.

Eating Right

Chico State hosted a series of composting workshops that gave away herbs and vegetables from the Compost Display Area, a student-run garden that uses food waste from Konkow residence hall to create a nutrient-rich growing medium. Campus Dining Services at Cal State Fullerton uses local produce, utilizes packaging made from recycled paperboard or newsprint, and looks into greener construction materials to use when a new food vendor comes on campus. San José State’s Dining Commons replaced its plastic dishware with environmentally-friendly bamboo plates and bowls. The National Wildlife Federation has featured Cal Poly Pomona’s Los Olivos commons on its website because of its recycling efforts, such as keeping food waste from landfills by sending it to an off-site composting program and recycling every single piece of trash.


Cal State San Bernardino plans to retrofit the parking lot, parking structure, road and walkway lighting to long-life LED elements and variable fixture-level controls, which will reduce the campus’ electricity usage by roughly four percent per year. In an effort to promote the reduction of vehicle-related greenhouse gas emissions, CSU Monterey Bay has installed two Level II electric vehicle chargers that can charge any type of vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle that is electrified. CSU San Marcos just installed electric charging stations on the first floor of the Student at SDSU GreenFestparking structure. Cal State Long Beach will now be part of Bike Nation, a nationwide bike sharing program. CSULB students will be able to rent and ride bikes to popular destinations throughout Long Beach. During San Diego State’s GreenFest, the Bike Brunch offered students a free breakfast after taking an alternative mode of transit to campus.

Water Works

Fresno State recently installed Aqua Cents® water management technology, which is expected to save up to 50 percent of the water used for campus landscaping by significantly reducing the amount needed for water and fertilizers. Last month, Cal State Northridge’s Institute for Sustainability hosted its annual Water Day event which educated students about local and global issues related to water. Sonoma State’s Watershed Lecture Series, which runs from January to May, is a series of lectures where local professionals speak about watershed restoration projects in the region and provide insights into water-related career choices.

Greener Buildings

With plans to open its doors to students in 2015, CSU Bakersfield’s new student housing complex will incorporate operable windows that maximize light and ventilation, bathrooms that have low-flush toilets, and roofs lined with solar hot water panels to reduce annual energy costs. CSU East Bay’s revamped Warren Hall—slated to open in May 2015—will use recycled and local materials for building, water-efficient landscaping and plumbing, and high efficiency heating and cooling systems. Cal Maritime’s new waterfront dining center, which will open in fall 2013, received a Higher Education Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Award for Overall Sustainable Design in the use of building siding, day lighting, natural ventilation, and highly efficient radiant floor heating. In addition to the renovation and seismic retrofitting of the Science 1 Building at CSU Stanislaus, it will now have photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and skylights to reduce energy costs. CSU Dominguez Hills implemented an intelligent lighting control retrofit in Welch Hall. The building now possesses high-accuracy occupancy detection to brighten lights when occupants are present, and precision task-tuning to be able to dim or brighten the lights at will.

Campus Changes

CSU Channel Islands’ University Drive reflects the university’s commitment to sustainability, with its high efficiency lighting, roadway surface of recycled tires, and bioswales that capture and clean storm water runoff.

Humboldt State’s Sustainability Office recently launched the green room certification and the green events certification programs to help students, faculty and staff reduce their carbon footprint.

Sacramento State Mulching Mania Last month, Sacramento State’s Sustainability Team co-hosted Mulching Mania on campus with the Sacramento Tree Foundation where student volunteers helped spread organic compost and mulch around plant beds and trees.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo recently partnered with the California Strawberry Commission to launch a new Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center. The center will focus on sustainability of California strawberry farming through applied research and innovation across multiple disciplines.