Have you ever wondered how students on campus have been contributing to the sustainability movement? Have you ever wanted to know more about this seemingly ambiguous word? If so, this column may be of interest to you. It is the first of many columns by members of the Empower Poly Coalition of student sustainability clubs that will raise awareness of the interconnected issues within the green movement.
Sustainability at a first glance may seem vague, but it is for good reason. This is because it encompasses all areas of human life and is hard to understand by looking at only a small piece. Simply put, sustainability is the ability to provide for the needs of the current population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This concept is often explained using the three tiers of sustainability: ecology, equity, and economy. In other words, if we want to successfully provide for our needs without destroying that ability for future generations, people must live in balance with the ecosystems that are the life support systems for all life on the planet, live in peace and equality with their fellow human, and maintain a healthy and bustling economy. These three things can’t work independently of one another. For example, we cannot have a successful long-term economic structure if corporations continually create situations of environmental degradation and depletion of resources.
Since the scientific community has become increasingly certain that human activity is creating a global warming, sustainability is no longer a buzzword in mainstream consciousness. Sustainability is here to stay. Over the last few years, there has been lots of talk by both the administration of Cal Poly as well as the California State University System about implementing sustainability practices to create a greener future for the CSU system. After a year and a half of student pressure, the CSU Board of Trustees passed a revised policy on energy conservation, sustainable building practices, and physical plant management. The policy lays out a series of goals, the most notable being a 15 percent reduction in total energy consumption by 2010. Other goals include an onsite renewable energy production increase from 2 to 10 megawatts and other efficient onsite production increase from 24 to 40 megawatts by 2014, 20 percent of all energy will be procured from renewable sources by 2010, and green building guidelines will be implemented for all new projects. With these goals, the university has real incentive to move from the realm of talking about campus sustainability to taking actions and making it reality. Cal Poly is now soaking up some rays and making its own power with its first major response to the policy. See for yourself; the roof of building 21 is now equipped with a photovoltaic array that will supply campus with nearly one-fourth of a megawatt of power.
The student body has shown an increasing interest in sustainability with many new clubs forming around different issues in the movement. Within the last year and a half, campus has seen the creation of Poly Greens, the Hydrogen Energy Club, the Fair Trade Club, and the Biodiesel Club. All of these clubs share a similar interest in sustainability, but there was little collaboration or even communication between them. Last spring, the gulf was bridged when the Empower Poly Coalition of student sustainability clubs was formed. It now brings together the previously mentioned clubs as well as the Environmental Council, the Sustainable Agriculture Club, and the Renewable Energy Club. Empower Poly meets regularly to provide a forum of communication and collaboration for student environmental activism on campus. Not only does the coalition give the clubs support to help reach their goals, it also provides a credible student voice when communicating with campus administrators. Most importantly, however, Empower Poly seeks to raise student awareness about the importance of making sustainability a part of our lives so we can contribute in maintaining a healthy planet for future generations.