The California State University (CSU) system has met its sustainability goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and reduce water consumption by 2020. The Board of Trustees is now focusing on carbon and energy reduction, energy resilience and procurement, water reduction and transportation management. 

On Tuesday, the California State University Board of Trustees held a virtual meeting, where they discussed the sustainability plans and goals among all 23 CSU campuses. 

At the meeting, those present reviewed the report on sustainability goals and proposed policy set by the Board of Trustees in 2014. 

The Board of Trustees is in charge of overseeing the CSU and adopts rules, regulations and procedures for all universities. In May of 2014, the Board of Trustees proposed a plan to reduce the CSU’s use of natural resources and supported the inclusion of sustainability concepts across all campuses. 

At the meeting, those present went over what goals were accomplished, what goals were to be planned and what new policies were to be set into place. 

Due to the increase in staffing at CSU campuses, the goal for each campus to have at least one dedicated sustainability staff member has grown from six campuses to now all 23 campuses funding such a position.

According to the CSU Sustainability webpage, CSU campuses have been and are working towards further integrating sustainability into the academic curriculum and all areas of the universities. 

In October of 2021, CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro announced that the university will no longer be pursuing investments in fossil fuels.

According to the meeting’s agenda, in 2016 and 2018, progress reports were provided to the board that included a detailed report with campus metrics to date and staff recommendation that CSU adopt the use of the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS). This was created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and will serve as the reporting and benchmarking tool for future reports. 

As of 2021, all 23 campuses participate in the STARS program, with nine campuses achieving a gold rating, 11 campuses silver and two bronze. Cal Poly received a gold rating for sustainability in 2019 and will continue to have that rating until it expires in Sept. 2022.

There have been multiple CSU efforts in sustainability that have supported the workforce in campus development. Oceanography Professor Alexander Parker of Cal Maritime Academy mentored undergraduate oceanography students through a summer internship to examine the impact of a wastewater treatment plant process upgrade. At CSU Stanislaus, students are being mentored by Dr. Julia Sankey in the study of air pollution in the Central Valley, after discovering that students commuting to campus drive more than 51 miles in an academic year. 

“Our CSU faculty, our students, our staff and valued community partners have been driving progress to reach our carbon reduction goals and educate and prepare our students today for the workforce and environment tomorrow,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Relyea said.

One opportunity coming up for students and faculty to come together to discuss challenges, ideas and solutions in resiliency and planning a sustainable future is the Sustainability Conference. The conference is a student-run conference that will be held on Mar. 24-25 both in-person and virtually at CSU Chico. The conference usually hosts about 1400 participants each year and provides attendees the opportunity to network, discuss and become more aware of important environmental and social issues which we face. 

The final policies and sustainability goals discussed on Tuesday will be finalized and presented at the meeting on Mar. 22-23.

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