by Victoria Maneske
On June 24, CI received a gold rating, the second-highest rating, in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System program by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in Camarillo. This recognition was earned through strong commitment in sustainability practices along with engagement, planning and administration and innovation and leadership. CI has been dedicated to reducing the impact on the ecosystem, and through thoughtful planning it has been successful.
According to Roxane Beigel-Coryell, the Sustainability and Energy Manager for the Department of Facilities Services, water conservation, grounds management practices and sustainability in research are the top three ways in which CI has maintained its sustainability. Around 33% of CI’s faculty members have incorporated sustainability in their research, making up 70% of CI’s disciplines. Part of the faculty and student research has included microplastics in the ocean, environmental communication, efficient electronics, air quality and indigenous culture.
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System program has shown that through efficiency measures such as lighting retrofits, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and equipment upgrades, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 66% when compared to the 2008-2009 baseline. In the upcoming years, CI has plans for a large solar photovoltaic project, converting sunlight directly to electricity, that will supply approximately 67% of electricity needs to the campus. Furthermore, the Sustainability Working Group has been working on a Climate Action Plan to guide CI in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enact carbon neutrality. Seats are available for student representatives for any CI students that are looking to be a part of the program and aid in campus sustainability.
Beigel-Coryell said that, “The grounds department is also very active in managing the university grounds as sustainably as possible, minimizing pesticide use and creating drought resistant pollinator habitats throughout campus.”
Mechanical management has been made a priority to maintain as much sustainability as possible. CI has focused on reducing water usage by having drought-tolerant planting around campus and organically managing the gardens. Water usage has been reduced 26% by the non-potable water used for irrigation.
The impact of COVID-19 has created some positive changes in terms of sustainability. With a significant decrease of student and personnel activity on campus, there has been a reduction in the use of water and energy. As reported by Beigel-Coryell, there has been a 42% decrease in water usage and a 24% decrease in electricity usage. The air quality has improved as well, with less vehicles around and fewer traveling planes.
However, one downside of the transition into virtual instruction was the struggle to keep students engaged in the campus sustainability. There will be virtual engagement opportunities to keep students interactive along with programs and initiatives postponed until campus is primarily in person once more, one being a new Sustainable Office Certification program.
Despite the new challenges being faced during COVID-19, there has been unwavering commitment to continuing with CI’s sustainability efforts. Beigel-Coryell claimed, “In these times, my goal to bring as much value as possible to students and the university is certainly deepened. I want to provide accessible information and practical tips for students and employees to practice sustainability, whether they are on campus or at home. I also want to establish partnerships with other campus organizations, especially those serving underrepresented students, to ensure we are helping to support and uplift those communities. Social justice and equity are a core pillar of sustainability that is often overlooked.”
CI’s sustainability is driven by the goal to beat climate change and utilize the available resources in a way that conserves the environment. With equal opportunities and engagement, educating students may provide an overall sustainable future.