Facility Services Sustainability Manager Dennis Elliot shows off the Best Practice Awards for Sustainability Innovations and Innovative Waste Reductions that Cal Poly won in June 2017. Frances Mylod-Vargas | Mustang News

Cal Poly continues to advance in energy efficiency, waste reduction and food sustainability.

Cal Poly won four awards at the 2017 Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Awards for its sustainability programs and projects June 2017. Cal Poly has won more sustainability awards than any other California State University (CSU).

Video by Greg Llamas

Best Practice Award in Sustainable Food Systems

The first award was Best Practice in Sustainable Food Systems, which is given to campuses that integrate food sustainability practices into their dining operations. In 2014, a CSU mandate was passed that required 20 percent of all food at campus dining operations to be sourced organic, locally grown or certified fair trade within six years. It also required schools to educate their campuses about
food sustainability.

According to the Cal Poly Campus Dining website, they focus on buying locally grown produce and educating students on the environmental benefits of eating that produce to increase sustainability.

Founder and Director of the Center for Sustainability in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Hunter Francis said that once students learn where their food comes from, they can make environmentally conscious decisions. He cited education as the most important part of
food sustainability.

Best Practice Award in Student Sustainability Leadership

In addition to increasing the amount of sustainably sourced food available to students on campus, Cal Poly also organized an event for students and faculty called the Student Sustainability Leadership Summit. The summit won the Best Practice Award in Student Sustainability Leadership for bringing together campus groups that were trying to achieve the same goal but weren’t working together.

Sustainability Coordinator Kylee Singh, who works as the connection between Facilities and students, wanted to “get all the club leaders on the same page and elevate the work they
were doing.”

Singh oversees the Cal Poly Green Campus Team, which is a group of student employees who create programs to get students more involved with energy efficiency and sustainable practices on campus. Green Campus Team Manager Ben Christensen says when multiple groups are working to address a problem, they can accomplish more by working together.

Christensen wants to make saving energy, using less water and reducing waste easier for students on campus. Christensen said the Green Campus Team is working to show students how to do that through programs such the Annual Conservation Diversion Challenge (ACDC). ACDC is a competition between the red brick residence halls to use less water and energy.

Christensen said his involvement with Cal Poly sustainability isn’t about personal achievement but rather what the school can achieve in the long run. To Christensen, these awards are a reflection of Cal Poly’s commitment to creating a better campus for
future students.

Graphic by Frances Mylod-Vargas

Best Practice Award in Sustainability Innovations

Cal Poly’s 20-acre solar farm project received a Best Practice Award in Sustainability Innovations, which is given to projects that don’t fit into any other award category. The solar farm is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by December 2017, according to Director of Energy, Utilities and Sustainability Dennis Elliot.

The solar farm will be linked to databases that will contain metered energy information provided to Elliot by students and will be available for students to use for projects and research. It is projected to generate enough power to meet about 25 percent of the campus’ total electricity needs and save the school millions of dollars, according to Elliot.

Honorable Mention in Innovative Waste Reduction

The Zero Waste Collaborative received an Honorable Mention in Innovative Waste Reduction for its efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling on campus.

The Collaborative involves decision makers on campus, such as the organizers of WOW and SLO Days, and off campus, such as the manager of the recycling center at Cold Canyon Landfill. Facilities purchased three-bin collection systems for waste, developed new signage instructing students on what goes in compost, recycling and landfill bins. These were placed in Robert E. Kennedy Library, The Avenue, the Julian A. McPhee University Union and a number of the residence halls.

The Zero Waste Collaborative monitored how well students were sorting trash and found that students needed additional guidance in recycling. Energy, Utilities and Sustainability was approved to add a Zero Waste Program coordinator to their team to continue to teach students how to reduce waste and recycle, according to Elliot.

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