Due to the prominence of issues such as global warming, sustainability and water conservation, many Cal Poly students are placing increasing importance on developing a green campus. This can be seen through the widespread mention of recycling and sustainability on the Campus Dining website, Open House and many other domains.
But what exactly are students doing to help our campus “go green?”
One program dedicated to helping Cal Poly become more sustainable is the Green Campus Program, a group of students and staff dedicated to creating a more energy-efficient and environmentally-conscious campus, led by general engineering junior and team leader Ravi Sahai.
Sahai said the group implements projects, such as dorm and Poly Canyon Village energy competitions, to help make Cal Poly more sustainable.
“The energy competitions have been super successful and it is one of my favorite programs,” Sahai said. “The goal is to educate and teach students how to live sustainable lives.”
The competition also yields significant savings in water and electricity bills.
“With students choosing to take shorter showers and turning the lights off when they leave the room, last year the red bricks had over $10,000 in savings,” Sahai said.
The program not only teaches sustainable lifestyles to students, but also to staff as well. The Green Campus Program goes into workplaces throughout Cal Poly to rank how sustainable the buildings are using a point system, Sahai said. For example, workplaces eliminating all window air conditioner units earn a point. Once the workplace receives enough points, they are awarded a “Green Campus Workplace Certification Program” certificate.
Besides the Green Campus Program, there are more than 23 clubs on the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) website filed under the “environmental” affiliation. These can range from groups such as the Green Campus Program, to clubs focusing on smaller aspects of sustainable living, such as the Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP).
Missy Sparks, president of the AEP, said its main focus is on professional networking with a green, sustainable eye.
“We discuss a wide variety of environmental topics like water, soils, wildlife,” Sparks said. “This is basically a way to help people find a career path to a green job.”
AEP is dedicated to not only helping members build professional relationships with those in green professions, but also to community and educational outreach.
Sparks said the club does many outreach events in the community while partnering with other organizations.
“ECOSLO is one of our partners, as well as the city,” Sparks said. “We work with them on planting and weed removal as well as Creek Day and coastal clean-up.”
Another program on campus dedicated to helping the community “go green” is the Real Food Collaborative, which brought in speaker Joel Salatin on Tuesday during the FocusSLO second annual Earth Week.
At the Salatin speaking event, Tessa Salzman, a city and regional planning sophomore and president of the Real Food Collaborative, said the organization’s goal is to educate about sustainability as well as increase the use of fair trade products and organic foods. It is also a member of the Empower Poly Coalition, which is an umbrella club for all sustainable clubs, Saltzman said.
“We are passionate because we want to start educating people about a sustainable food system,” Salzman said. “We are not here to condemn the negative, but to celebrate the positive.”
The club has also organized many community events such as “Green Chef,” a sustainable foods cooking competition, and the Real Food Challenge, a national campaign with the goal of increasing the percentage of “real” food in dining halls to at least 20 percent by 2020, according to its website.
Another club doing what it can for the Cal Poly community is the Cal Poly Surfrider Club.
Greg Salas, president of Surfrider, said the organization is part of the Surfrider Foundation, which is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.
“Our main goal is to help maintain healthy beaches and a healthy coast through activism,” Salas said. “No one gets paid. It’s all through volunteering.”
Another campaign Salas said the Surfriders are involved in is the Rise Above Plastics campaign.
“Its basically a campaign to help lower plastic use and single-use bags,” Salas said. “We try to educate people about getting their own grocery bags, or if you do get a plastic bag at the store, don’t throw it away, find another use for it.”
The Surfriders also encourage community members to maintain ocean-friendly gardens.
“If you are going to have a garden, plant native plants that can live in their climate so you don’t have to use fertilizer or a lot of excess water,” Salas said.
Club members also participate in monthly beach clean-ups. As a way to add fun to the activities, the members will surf together before or after the clean-up.
“It’s a way to kind of combine work with pleasure, I’d say,” Salas said. “There are so many things that we are doing, but we really love what we do.”
Those interested in participating in one of the many green campus clubs and programs can go to the ASI club directory for more information.