As a graduate student of Chico State and an EAC member, I was personally interested in finding out the inner workings of the school and community. This curiosity evolved into to a two-semester internship updating the environmental audit for Chico State. I found the environmental audit a practical guide to looking at our university and its actions through an ecological and social lens. Completing this environmental audit on our campus required hours of research, analysis, and evaluation. I could not have completed this project without the help of fellow students and EAC members Roozbeh Nazari, Lindsay Pernell and Matt Yarbrough. I would also like to thank my advisor Dr. Mark Stemen, who acted as an incredible support system throughout the entire process of this audit and also helped me analyze the results. I am very grateful to them, and to the faculty and staff that were enthusiastic, generous with their time, and supportive of this project.
I would also like to thank the following people for their support, involvement, and enthusiasm for this project: Barbara Kopicki, Jeff Mott, Linda Becktel, Roger Becker, Richard Jackson, Joyce Friedman, Don Sleeper, Marvin Pratt, Joe Covert, Jim Postma, Lou Kelly, Ron Johnson, Dennis Graham, Jeff Wright, Charlie Harless, Eric Adams, Greg Francis, Bill McGinnis, Leslie Brown, Mike Minard, Jerry Orteneau, Career Planning and Placement Center, Institutional Research, Associated Students, University Information Center, Cal Water, and the City of Chico.
Our campus is not only a part of the Chico community; it is also a community in itself. The results of this updated audit can aid us in evaluating our physical, economic, social and environmental impacts. The audit serves as a guide, showing us how far we have come and what we can improve on. Creative and ecologically smart management of our university will not only reduce institutional operating costs, but it will also improve the quality of all services on campus, and reduce waste and environmental impacts both locally and globally. These management initiatives can have both tangible and intangible benefits for us all.
It is not our intention to analyze the audit here, we leave that to others, but we have reviewed the audit and pulled out some highlights. Overall, this university is doing a lot of great work, and there are programs in place that we can continue to build on. It is clear from the audit that the University is determined to think and act more environmentally. The Office of the Vice President of Business and Finance should be commended for its commitment to improving the environmental health of this campus.
While reviewing the audit some positives stand out. The University has had a 90% reduction of pesticides used on campus (Question #64), and 85% of the pest control on campus is done by natural methods and substances (#65). The University has made strides to replace mercury thermometers with alcohol ones (#29). The Chemistry Department has adopted microscale techniques to reduce toxic waste (#30). The University has also adopted a policy to buy electric vehicles for use on campus (#76). Many of the positive improvements on campus can be attributed to the formation and work of the Campus Conservation Committee, which strives to integrate more environmentally sound products and practices on campus (#127). Another positive aspect on campus is that 58% of the campus population walks or bikes to school (#128). The Associated Students also deserves praise. Solid waste disposal costs have decreased nearly 40% since the inception of their recycling program on campus (#17).
While reviewing the audit there were also some areas of concern. We have divided the problems into those regarding reporting and procedure. One problem of recording is regarding the lack of data for the amount of wastewater (sewage) that the campus generates annually (#54, 57). We cannot begin to improve on this until we know where we currently stand. Another problem of reporting was found regarding the amount/volume of paper that is purchased annually (#119, 122). Again, we cannot begin to work toward reducing this amount if we do not know where we stand in the first place.
We would also like to highlight a few procedures and policies we believe should be reviewed. One issue of concern is the amount of asbestos on campus and the associated health risks and costs of removal (#23). We encourage the University to follow “green building” practices in future construction. The issue of medical waste is also of concern (#43, 46). Further review of the characterization of the waste is needed to determine whether dioxins are being produced during the incineration process. We would advocate for “health care without harm”, and we encourage the University to look into other disposal options for our medical waste. Our source of energy is another area of concern. There are many other options for electricity today that do not include using a grid system that includes nuclear power (#103). Another area that has improvement possibilities is the food services on campus. While campus food services have extended their services to include more vegetarian options, we would also encourage the options of organic produce, dairy, and meat selections (#113-115).
While the University has a policy to buy recycled products, we would encourage going beyond the minimum percentage of Recycled Content Products numbers set by the State (#121, 178). We found it surprising that the Associated Students has one of the best campus recycling programs in the state, yet no policy regarding the purchase of recycled products (#178). Although 58% of the campus population walks or bikes to campus, we still have over a third of the population coming to school in single occupancy vehicles and only 6% using the free transit service offered (#128).
While there are still problems and issues that need to be worked out, we are proud of our University. I hope the updated environmental audit will stimulate discussion on campus so we can continue to change the way that our educational institution works relative to our regional ecology and economy. A notable and refreshing aspect of our exploration into the environmental workings of our campus was the honesty and openness of the institution to self-reflection. With this kind of attitude our environmental impacts will continue to diminish and our ability to serve as a model for the rest of the state will continue to rise.
Shelley K. Orteneau
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