Feb 10, 2014Vol. 44, Issue 3

Sustainability Conference to Educate, Inspire

This Way to Sustainability attracts about 1,400 participants each year.

This Way to Sustainability attracts about 1,400 participants each year.

For eight consecutive years, the This Way to Sustainability Conference at CSU, Chico has awed and inspired faculty, students, staff, and administrators with powerful keynote presentations and programming exploring what is possible in sustainability. This year promises to be no exception.

Slated for March 6–8, This Way to Sustainability IX is expected to draw more than 1,400 participants and nearly 150 speakers to campus for three days of sustainability-focused programming and events. The event is hosted by The Institute for Sustainable Development and Associated Students, and is the nation’s largest student-run conference.

Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, addresses conference attendees in 2010.

Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, addresses conference attendees in 2010.

“The conference is both run by and targeted toward students, because of the opportunity to have a big impact,” explained Fletcher Alexander, campus sustainability coordinator. “We’re able to make a really powerful impression in just a few days.”

Themed “Growing Toward a Sustainable Future,” this year’s conference will give a special focus to sustainable food and agriculture. Programming on Saturday, March 8, will take place at the University Farm, where CSU, Chico agriculture professors will conduct workshops showcasing sustainable farming practices at the farm.

Several dynamic keynoters have been tapped, all leaders in their fields, including Anya Fernald, cofounder and CEO of Belcampo; Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and Danya Baumeister, cofounder and keystone of the nonprofit Biomimicry 3.8. Fernald heads a group of innovative agriculture ventures that aim to produce food through integrated approaches to land management and food production. She has been named to Food & Wine magazine’s “40 Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under” list and to T: The New York Times Style Magazine's “Nifty Fifty”; appeared as a regular judge on Iron Chef America from 2009–11; and has coauthored two books for Slow Food’s international publishing house.

Ross has served in Governor Jerry Brown's administration since 2011. Prior to her appointment, she served as chief of staff for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and as president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers for 13 years. Baumeister, whose company focuses on using models in nature to solve human problems, will share well-adapted success stories for sustainability and offer ideas for the path forward.

Other conference presentations will focus on sustainable solutions in the areas of business and economy, education, energy and water, lifestyle, and more. Sessions are designed for beginners as well as those with advanced knowledge.

A number of CSU, Chico faculty will serve as speakers, panelists, emcees, and tour guides. A screening of a new documentary film by CSU, Chico anthropology professor Jesse Dizard, Treading Water, will also be offered.

This Way to Sustainability is the nation’s largest student-run conference.

This Way to Sustainability is the nation’s largest student-run conference.

Several awards will be presented during the event, said Teri Randolph, assistant to the director for The Institute: the Paul Persons Award, recognizing faculty members furthering sustainability through teaching, and The Greenie Awards, recognizing businesses, individuals, students, nonprofits, and others for their sustainability efforts. New this year, Greenies will be given in both higher education and K-12 categories.

Randolph added that the extensive student involvement in planning and executing the conference makes the This Way to Sustainability Conference an especially valuable event.

“As coordinators, students work directly with speakers, perform moderator duties, provide speaker introductions, and act as conference hosts,” she said. “Because speakers are culled from a variety of sustainability-related industries, students gain valuable networking opportunities and interactions with leaders in the field. It’s really a win-win.”

A complete schedule of the conference, including times for the keynote addresses and registration information, can be found at http://www.csuchico.edu/sustainablefuture/conference. Online registration for the event is open until Feb. 28.

—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications