CSUN Makes Huge Strides as National Leader in Sustainability

  • bike

    A representative from the Matador Bike Shop repairs a bike at the 2016 Earth Fair. Photo by Lee Choo.

  • Students planting a tree at Earth Day 2016. Photo by Ruth Saravia.

  • solar

    Ribbon-cutting event with DC Solar Freedom, which is providing CSUN with free mobile solar products for use in and around campus. Photo by Lee Choo.

Launching a green cleaning program, developing an agreement that would quadruple the solar generation on campus, expanding drought-tolerant landscaping and offering bicycle-education workshops are among the priorities for 2016-17 outlined in California State University, Northridge’s annual Sustainability Plan.

The plan, which was developed by the Institute for Sustainability, establishes the priorities for 2016-17 and highlights last year’s accomplishments. The institute is assisted in its’ work across campus by the Green Core Working Groups, faculty and staff who work to promote the mission of the institute.

“The goal of the institute is to build sustainability awareness and action on campus and within the community with staff, faculty and students, and provide opportunities for engagement in sustainability-related activities through education, research and participation in activities,” said Helen Cox, director of the Institute for Sustainability. “We would like to advance CSUN’s reputation nationally as a sustainability leader through education and action.”

Some of the other priorities for next year include adopting the City of Los Angeles’ sustainability plan, developing an interdisciplinary master’s degree in sustainability practices and increasing the use of organic materials used on CSUN grounds.

Cox said the 2015-16 academic year was stellar for CSUN’s sustainability efforts. CSUN released its Climate Action Plan, an ambitious plan to move the campus forward on a path toward zero carbon emissions by 2040. To help with that effort, the University Corporation partnered with the Food Recovery Network to donate uneaten food to local people in need; the Institute for Sustainability partnered with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that offers free solar panels to low-income families; and CSUN was the first campus in the California State University system to partner with DC Solar Freedom to receive free mobile solar products for use in and around campus.

CSUN now diverts up to 60 percent of its waste from landfills, exceeding the state-mandated diversion rate of 50 percent. The university also has reduced its water consumption by 22 percent, equivalent to 55 million gallons annually.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education awarded CSUN a gold rating in its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). CSUN’s rating is among the highest in the California State University system. It is the first time the university, led by Sustainability Program Manager Austin Eriksson, has completed the very complex and rigorous STARS application. The Associated Students Sustainable Office Program also won the Student Sustainability Leadership award at the 12th annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for best practices.

“CSUN has made huge strides in our sustainability efforts and our commitment in making a difference,” Eriksson said. “This is easily seen in all of the accomplishments that have been achieved over the last year, as well as our ambitious goals for the coming years.”

CSUN is known nationally for its green efforts and is considered one of the most sustainable universities in the CSU system. Both the Valley Performing Arts Center and the Student Recreation Center are LEED-gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and the LA Cleantech Incubator has established a satellite incubator at CSUN to promote research and development of clean technology, including renewable energy. This passion for sustainability goes all the way to the students, who organize groups such as the Associated Students’ Recycling Center, which recently organized a campus-wide waste audit.

CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability promotes, facilitates and develops educational research and university and community programs related to sustainability. It serves as an umbrella organization across the university on issues related to sustainability, and is connecting the campus with efforts in the community. For more information, contact the Institute for Sustainability at (818) 677-7710, email sustainability@csun.edu or visit the institute’s website at csun.edu/sustainability.