Ben Rozak

Transportation Innovation

Hybrids, electric cars and alternative forms of transportation are all buzzwords for those looking to be more environmentally friendly, including Cal Poly. In an effort to become more eco-conscious, electric vehicles have been introduced to the current fleet on campus.

Stock clerk of transportation services Skip Montgomery said Cal Poly has close to 100 electric golf carts and pickups working in conjunction with regular vehicles to assist with everyday campus needs.

The electric vehicles help promote energy efficiency, lessen dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce emissions on campus. However, despite these benefits, they will not replace all regular vehicles anytime soon.

“There is still a need for heavy-duty trucks to pull and carry heavy things and to cover off-road areas,” Montgomery said, “but we are trying to make an effort to lessen our carbon footprint on campus.”

In addition to the alternative vehicles on campus, Cal Poly also promotes alternative forms of transportation. Those with a PolyCard, – including students, faculty and staff – are provided with free access to San Luis Obispo (SLO) Transit. This creates the opportunity to significantly reduce the number of drivers commuting to and from campus. According to Cal Poly’s sustainability Web site, two in five riders of SLO Transit are Cal Poly students, and one in 33 riders are employees.

The university has also made strides big and small in order to reduce auto emissions, from increasing parking permit prices to increasing the amount of on-campus housing. For example, between 2003 and 2009, 3,580 beds will have been added for residents to help cut down on emissions caused by commuting students.

Photovoltaic Panels

Though photovoltaic panels (solar panels) may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, they are becoming more of a reality now than ever. On campus, panels can be found on the roof of Engineering West, science building 52, and on top of the Facilities building, said Dennis Elliot, manager of utilities and engineering for Facilities Services.

The largest of the three locations, Engineering West, consists of 1,008 panels that were installed in 2006 and generate 230,000 kilowatt hours per year to help reduce Cal Poly’s energy costs.

Though smaller in size, the array found on the roof of the facilities building is used to recharge some of the electric vehicles in the campus’s fleet, and those found atop science building 52 are being used for research in the physics department, according to Elliot.

In addition to the three sets of panels currently in use, there are plans underway to develop a one-megawatt project to produce alternative energy on campus.

“Solar power is obviously a zero-emissions technology that is helping as we try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it a good part of the solution,” Elliot said. “With the cost of electricity rising and the way we contract for these kinds of systems, they provide a hedge against inflation, and they also serve as a great educational tool.”

The panels are available for classes to tour and can be tracked online at

“Renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions are some of the most important things our graduates will be working on, and the panels help students learn about these issues,” Elliot said.

LEED Certification

In order to make the entire campus more ecofriendly, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green building rating system is being implemented to certify new building projects meet sustainability guidelines.

LEED certification comes from a third party, and confirms that a building meets a nationally accepted benchmark for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

“It basically shows that a building is energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, chooses the best materials, and is as sustainable as it can be,” Elliot said.

Faculty Offices East is currently in the process of gaining the certification, as is Poly Canyon Village, which will be LEED-certified once it is completed in 2009.

“After completion of these projects, over 20 percent of the campus’ buildings will have the certification,” Elliot said.

In addition to these projects, the planned Recreation Center expansion will also gain certification upon completion. Those who voted in the recent election concerning the expansion proposal had the opportunity to cast a vote for or against making the project LEED certified, which resulted in overwhelming support of the idea.

“We are currently looking for opportunities and funding to see if we can certify the center for science,” Elliot said. “The state does not allow us to use state bond funds that are allocated for a capital project to pay for certification so we have to find a different funding source to do that.”

Zero Waste Policy

Americans often get a bad rap for being some of the most wasteful people on earth. To combat this, many Cal Poly clubs and organizations have attempted to carry out a zero-waste policy to reduce the amount of trash they produce, and increase the amount of recycling they carry out.

Open House, Week of Welcome (WOW) and Campus Dining all take part in producing zero waste, and the number of groups participating are increasing every year, according to Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting, WOW adviser and assistant director of Student Life and Leadership.

The WOW organization is a strong proponent of the zero-waste concept, and has found several innovative ways to carry out the policy.

“This year, the WOW committee is slowly trying to create a paperless resource packet,” Kaiwi-Lenting said. “We’re trying to get all the resources on campus to give us their information electronically so that we can give all the new students a jump drive with all that information on it. Instead of putting money toward printing and using paper, we can put that money toward this instead.”

In addition, they are committed to recycling materials and working with other campus groups to create paperless lunches that include the WOW barbecue, SLO Bound and other events.

“We’ve been real conscious in making sure that when we order something from Campus Dining, we work with them and the recycling program on campus,” Kaiwi-Lenting said. “We compost leftover food, make sure we use sustainable products, and we educate the parents and students that are participating with us about these processes.”

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