Cal State Universities work to improve sustainability efforts

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Exterior shot of the CSUF emblem
(Katie Albertson / Daily Titan)

Sustainability is becoming more important to all Cal State Universities as each university has agreed to comply with specific standards in a new system-wide policy. According to the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy organization, Cal State Fullerton  is ranked 228 out of the 268 UCs and CSUs on the 2018 ranking of Cool Schools.

To be included in the annual Cool Schools report, each university must self-report by filling out a survey in covering its energy and water use, sustainability operations, environmental curriculum and how they’re investing, according to Katie O’Reilly, the adventure and lifestyle editor for Sierra Club magazine.

“It’s usually schools that are kind of embedding it into the core of their ethos and going above and beyond to really lower their emissions and push their environmental message of advocacy that tends to rank highly in cool schools,” O’Reilly said.

A map of CSU school rankings on the Sierra Club's 2018 Cool School report.
(Danielle Evangelista / Daily Titan)

In 2014, the CSU board of trustees embraced its first sustainability policy where each university must meet goals in transportation, energy, water resource conservation, recycling and zero waste, green building, food systems and academics.

According to the report, 22 of the 23 universities have a sustainability officer, and 20 universities have incorporated specific sustainability policies into their campus documents. 19 universities have also created a sustainability committee or task force, while 15 have committed to developing carbon neutrality plans.

Students have been a big contributor to CSUF’’s sustainability goals.

John Bock, professor of anthropology and the director of the CSUF Center for Sustainability, creates the curriculum for most sustainable projects on campus like Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience, a community-based research project where students work with teachers, faculty and the community to create clever ways to approach food challenges. The project is supported by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

“We have students working in the community on these projects and all focused on sustainability. Our Cal State Fullerton students come from five different colleges and nine different majors so they’re across the campus, all kinds of different interests. But it all focuses in on sustainability because sustainability is transdisciplinary and you can approach it from a lot of different points,” Bock said.

Associated Students has also created an environmental sustainability commission that raises awareness through events and programs. In addition, the Fullerton Arboretum is another big contributor to sustainability on campus, Bock said.

“At the arboretum, we have our CSUF learning farm. They do a great amount of community engagement with teaching people about sustainable agricultural practices and composting, and then they support service-learning students and other students and faculty conducting research,” Bock said.

Despite CSUF’s low ranking in the Sierra Club’s report, much of the faculty and many students on campus are actively involved in creating a more sustainable campus.

In the biology department, professors are conducting sustainable ecological research and in the African American studies department and English department, faculty members are tackling food justice issues in sustainability.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in all of these different areas working as a large collaborative team of different organizations, but all under the umbrella of sustainability all working together for Cal State Fullerton,” Bock said.

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