CSUSM launches sustainability minor


Ruben Santana

CSUSM launched a new sustainability minor in fall 2020 for students interested in promoting an environmentally conscious society.

Kristie Castillo, Staff Writer

CSUSM has introduced a new sustainability minor for students to learn about the importance of sustainability and its connection to the environment and social justice, as well as how they can impact the world around them. 

The new minor is a way for students who don’t want to commit to an entirely new major to gain a meaningful understanding of sustainability through completing just 18 units. 

Program Director of environmental studies Greig Guthey and associate professor of environmental studies Gabriel Valle took the lead on creating this new project nearly four years ago so that students outside of environmental studies could implement sustainability elements in addition to their regular course of study. 

“There’s a whole array of changes that people need to understand that are worthy of studying. So, that’s why I think we really created the sustainability minor, hoping to actually provide a way for people that aren’t … bought into that kind of environmental studies degree but they have some interest and they want to learn more. That’s the person we’re targeting,” said Guthey. 

Sustainability teaching and advocacy has grown rapidly in recent years and is being implemented into a number of businesses, policies and products aimed at reducing environmental impact. 

The individuals who helped create this minor say that the program’s success can be tracked by looking at how students apply their sustainability education in their future careers and communities.

“We grow food on campus, we have a food pantry … we do a lot of positive things with solar energy, we have a lot of initiatives on campus … I think if we can see this minor grow and we can see our university continue to move in directions that are environmentally responsible but also about moving the county forward and moving students forward, I think that’ll be a big indicator or gauge of our success,” said Valle.

We were one of the first campuses to recycle in the state of California, we were one of the first campuses to have a comprehensive program that dealt with our waste on campus.

— Juliana Goodlaw-Morris, CSUSM Sustainability Manager

The new sustainability minor joins an extensive list of efforts and programs at CSUSM aimed at educating students about their environmental impact and preparing them for a future with sustainability in mind. 

Juliana Goodlaw-Morris, who has been CSUSM’s Sustainability Manager for nearly six years, oversees the success and progress of a number of sustainability programs and goals, most notably the Journey to Zero Waste by 2025 initiative.

“We were one of the first campuses to recycle in the state of California, we were one of the first campuses to have a comprehensive program that dealt with our waste on campus. So from a waste standpoint, it’s only natural for us to be a leader trying to get to Zero Waste by 2025,” said Goodlaw-Morris. 

The campus has implemented many programs meant to deal with waste including pre-consumer and post-consumer composting programs. The pre-consumer composting program has been in place for around seven years but the post-consumer composting program is still in development. 

“We have been anxiously awaiting to start a post-consumer program and our waste collector is EDCO and so they’ve been working on an anaerobic digester. It was actually supposed to start … this January. Delays, construction, funding, all those things, so they are on track to start their program in January 2021,” said Stephanie Hebert, CSUSM’S Recycling and Sustainability Coordinator. 

[Sustainability] really touches on everything that we do on an everyday basis.

— Juliana Goodlaw-Morris, CSUSM Sustainability Manager

Unfortunately, Hebert explained, without enough students on campus it’s not possible to launch a campus wide composting program. There is, however, a collaboration between CSUSM Sustainability and The Compost Group (based out of North County) to establish a small capacity post-consumer compost program in the University Village Apartments, where most residential students are located at this time.

“My hope is that the sustainability minor gives students a little more insight to sustainability. That it’s not just to protect the environment but that there’s more to it. And so, it really touches on everything that we do on an everyday basis. So, having that as a minor … I’m hoping that it opens their eyes a little bit and makes them see the world slightly different than where they see it currently in whatever major it is they have,” said Goodlaw-Morris. 

For more information on the new sustainability minor, visit csusm.edu/envs/sust_minor.html.