CSUSM continues to improve its sustainability efforts

By Chelsey Schweitzer

Even after 25 years, CSUSM is still striving to improve sustainability in the face of expansion and plans to follow the guidelines laid out in the Sustainability Master Plan to achieve this goal.

Sustainability is the practice of preventing the depletion of natural resources and reducing the harm done to the environment in order to preserve the state of the planet for the future. Over the last decade, the campus was recognized nationally for its sustainability efforts with several awards due to the recycling programs that were set up as well as energy and water conservation programs that were developed.

Going forward, the campus will continue to look for new ways to make progress in the field of sustainability while paying special attention to student life, campus climate, academic excellence, community partnerships and educational equity as outlined in the University’s Sustainability Master Plan.

“We have to continue to set a good example [in sustainability] and work to preserve the planet for the future,” said student Aly Wilson, who is currently in her second year on campus.

Over the past 25 years, CSUSM has worked tirelessly to increase overall campus sustainability. Through the promotion of alternate forms of transportation, including public transit and car pools, the campus helped cut back on the greenhouse gas emission caused by car exhaust by reducing the amount of single occupant commuters on campus.

In addition to the reduced emissions resulting from cars, the campus reduced the amount of energy used by “40 percent since 2008,” according to the Sustainability Master Plan. The University accomplished this through the use of renewable sources of energy like solar panels and the minimization of the overall amount of energy used throughout its facilities.

The Sustainability Master Plan highlights the energy use goals by stating that the University hopes to “one day produce as much renewable energy as the campus consumes.”

Waste management is another area of sustainability that has progressed over the years. The amount of paper waste has been steadily decreasing through the use of electronic communication for classes and the use of hand driers instead of paper towels in the bathrooms. In addition, water bottle refill stations were added to the drinking fountains in order to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated on campus.

Ryan Nieto, a fourth-year student, offered his own ideas as to how CSUSM could further decrease the amount of waste among students and promote sustainability.

“[The campus could] sell reusable cups and offer discounts on drinks when students use these cups,” said Nieto.

The recycling program that was established on campus has also yielded a highly positive result in terms of sustainability, with a current recycling rate of over 70 percent.  According to the Sustainability Master Plan, the campus aims to “accelerate waste minimization efforts in order to achieve zero waste by 2025.”

Living in Southern California, water is another area that is cause for concern in sustainability. In order to reduce the amount of water used, the campus uses local well water for the purpose of irrigation, maintains primarily drought tolerant and edible plants and closely monitors the amount of water used by the campus. The ecosystems of the region are also closely studied in order to ensure that the campus has no negative impact on the surrounding land, plants and animals.

With more than 14,000 students, faculty and staff currently on campus, a number that is projected to grow substantially in the coming years, sustainability has been a pressing matter for the campus.

“As the university expands in the years ahead, CSUSM will need to do so in a way that supports and advances sustainability,” says the Sustainability Master Plan.

In order to achieve this goal, any future buildings will be set to the specific campus standards regarding water, energy, environmental, waste and land management techniques that have previously been set in place.

Professors can also help students learn how to aid campus sustainability, as many of them are teaching sustainability in the classrooms, and will occasionally even do class projects related to the topic.

“By using the campus as a living laboratory and by ensuring students are learning about different sustainability issues and innovative critical thinking skills to solve some of our most pressing issues as a nation and globally, CSUSM is ensuring students are prepared for careers in a wide variety of areas and are leaders as they go out into the job market,” said Juliana Goodlaw-Morris, the Sustainability Manager at CSUSM.

In this way, CSUSM is set to continue at the forefront of sustainability efforts.

As stated in the Sustainability Master Plan, “[The vision is to] meet our present needs without diminishing the abilities of future generations to do the same.”

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California