With the significant decrease of students roaming the grounds of Cal State Fullerton, sustainability efforts have seen a significant boost as the campus’ carbon footprint shrunk throughout this year.
Electricity and natural gas use has fallen by roughly 20%, and water use has dropped about 30% since in-person campus activities have slowed to a trickle, said Michael Lotito, associate director of Plant Operations and chief engineer of the Office of Sustainability.
“Since March, the decrease in energy and water consumption has helped the campus reduce costs and its carbon footprint,” Lotito said.
Operating under limited in-person instruction has seen many amenities and functions of the school go completely unused or paused, resulting in reduced budgets for several utilities across campus. Only activities that are essential to the operation of the campus have priority funding, as well as any major construction projects greenlit before March.
The office also chose to renegotiate its contract with Charge Harbor, a company that aids universities and large office buildings in implementing electrical vehicle charging stations on the property. In an effort to save funds, only 20 of the 37 charging stations on campus are still active.
Eighteen of the stations are on the CSUF main campus, while the other two reside in Irvine, resulting in a 202% cost reduction compared to last year, as station usage decreased by over 500%, according to Janet Purchase, the office's Utility and Energy Analyst.
Waste management also experienced a 62% reduction in waste disposed of on campus compared to the previous year, but as campus construction projects restarted and staff returned to the office, disposal has been building up.
Danny Miranda Jr., the sustainable waste management specialist, said that the Office of Sustainability manages CSUF’s recycling program and works in tandem with the Gastronome to dispose of food waste and donate food scraps to the Arboretum.
“We are continuing to refine and adapt our recycling programs as well as working on expanding our food waste recycling and auction programs,” Miranda Jr. said.
Miranda Jr. said that the limited maintenance needed to dispose of waste has also helped reduce the carbon emissions on campus, as the department has continued to operate on a three-day basis as opposed to its pre-pandemic five-day operation. In addition to this, the cost of disposal operations has reduced due to the limited waste service schedule this semester.
Michael Grace, the office’s facilities analyst, reports that Capital Programs Facilities Management has succeeded in meeting the State University Administrative Manual’s requirements for 0% emission vehicles purchased every year, actually exceeding the requirement every year by prioritizing alternative fuel vehicles.
The campus’ vehicle fleet is currently made up of 60% alternative-fuel vehicles, 48% of which are zero-emission vehicles.
The campus also launched the Fullerton Urban Forest Improvement Project. Ten trees were planted on campus this November. The project was done in collaboration between CSUF and West Coast Arborists and supported by the CalFire Urban and Community Forestry California Climate Investments grant program.
The project aims to plant 500 trees across the city over the next few years, with a priority on planting trees in disadvantaged areas.
"To reach these goals, the department is working on several projects that include expanding the food waste program, holding public auctions, planting more trees, increasing renewable energy and requiring LEED Silver or equivalent for new buildings," Lotito said.
The campus master plan includes goals to improve CSUF’s sustainability practices and lead the campus into becoming a carbon-neutral campus by 2050.
In accordance with the CSU Sustainability Policy, CSUF’s other goals include reducing water use, increasing the waste diversion rate, and investing in sustainable food purchases for campus dining.
“The Office of Sustainability will continue integrating sustainability into all facets of campus including facilities operations, the built environment, academics and student life,” Lotito said.