This past weekend, 25 Cal Poly students embarked on a trip to the semi-annual sustainability convergence, put on by the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), an organization made up of colleges throughout the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. This fall’s convergence was held at the University of California, Santa Cruz, comprised of panel discussions, student and professional-led workshops, a grand dinner and a tremendous amount of networking that took place between the 300+ student attendees.
The convergence is an event that fosters collaborative and engaging interaction between schools from across California. It is a time to learn about “best practice” sustainability models, with the hope of enticing schools to adopt similar programs regarding sustainability-based projects and initiatives at their respective campuses.
The learning environment at the convergence is always a refreshing experience, due to the interaction of the diverse groups of people who are advocating for common interests of protecting the triple bottom line of enhance the environment, our economy and social equity values. It’s great to see the newcomers eagerly learning the many merits of sustainability.
So how does Cal Poly stack up against other schools in California? Well, the truth is that Cal Poly has historically done a number of things that have propelled us in a direction of creating a more sustainable campus. These include Cal Poly’s organic farm, the many sustainability-focused classes, the designing and building of the Solar Decathlon House, energy efficiency upgrades and a variety of other projects. The reality though, is that Cal Poly has stagnated in the development of sustainability innovation from the perspective of student involvement on campus. Of course there are projects on campus that are emphasizing forward thinking models of sustainability, such as the biofuels project which aims to develop algae-based fuel to be used as an alternative source of energy. But where is the linkage between students, faculty and staff in developing a long lasting sustainability program that invests in funding of projects both now and into the future? Where is the commitment from the administration to take a stance on this matter that will enable Cal Poly to be a leader in sustainability. The truth is, that Cal Poly can be doing more. Much, much more.
Over the years, Cal Poly has developed a name for itself based on the polytechnic model it was founded upon. With this said, my attending the CSSC convergence in Santa Cruz this past weekend and learning of the many programs that schools across California are working on, left me apprehensive as to the lack of Cal Poly’s recent efforts to develop a holistic model for campus sustainability. If Cal Poly is to stand as a polytechnic university ahead of other schools across the nation, we must now propel our efforts to adapt towards a sustainable model by promoting the advancement of programs, initiatives and research so that every student understands the fundamentals behind local and global sustainability. It is in this sense that Cal Poly will redefine itself as a university that is spearheading this movement, while investing in the education of future students to adapt to new jobs and careers upon graduation.
The bottom line is this: We as students, faculty members and administrators have the ability to set a framework for developing sustainability principles within all educational backgrounds at Cal Poly. We can be the leaders of sustainability within higher education by becoming the frontrunner in creating a healthy and prosperous future at California Polytechnic University. If you are someone who is committed to learning more about sustainability, engage yourself as a proponent of change. Come to an Empower Poly meeting to join the forces of the student sustainability group on campus.
Sure, we could sit back and watch as other schools pass us by, but wouldn’t it be better to become an exceptional model for unique ideas and inspiration?
The future simply cannot wait!
Tyler Hartrich is a city and regional planning senior, Empower Poly Coalition vice president and Mustang Daily columnist .
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