As we mentioned in our last column, CSU, Chico has initiated a
Campus Sustainability Assessment. This process can be quite enlightening,
but also a bit intimidating at the outset. It is always hard to
stand in front of the mirror; the reflection does not always return
what we would like see.
What does it mean to be working toward a sustainable campus? Sustainability
can be defined simply as meeting the needs of the current generation
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs. Campus sustainability covers not only the resources and
energy that go into our daily operations, but also our institution’s
impacts on the community and the region that we serve.
CSU, Chico is not alone in these efforts. We (Mark and Jim) have
just returned from the North American Conference on Sustainability
in Higher Education. This conference showcased some of the extraordinary
efforts taking place in colleges and universities from Mexico to
Canada to build healthy, just, and ecologically sound communities.
We are extremely proud to report that CSU, Chico is seen as having
assumed a leadership role in campus sustainability efforts within
the western United States.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency announced their
P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) awards at the conference,
and CSU Chico student teams in Laurie Wermuth’s Environmental
Sociology class received one of these awards. The students are collaborating
with community members on projects to increase the application of
alternative energy: working to install solar panels at Pleasant
Valley High School, researching solar water heaters for Bidwell
Apartments, and documenting the energy efficiency of homes in the
Doe Mill Neighborhood. There were only 66 awards given nationwide
in a very competitive proposal round. Congratulations to Professor
Wermuth and her student team. In May, four students from the class
will travel to Washington, D.C. to display their findings at an
EPA science conference.
At the conference we also learned that CSU, Chico is distinguished
by being among only two dozen campuses in the western United States
constructing LEED-certified buildings, and among a handful of campuses
nationwide that are performing a sustainability assessment.
While we are making great strides, we need to keep moving. Anthony
Cortese, president of Second Nature, delivered a compelling keynote
address in which he asked, “Is higher education moving fast
enough to meet the world’s urgent needs?” His answer
was a resounding “no!” Cortese believes that we need
to refocus and revitalize our efforts on vision making, and that
we need to incorporate values and ethics in all learning. Univer-sities,
he points out, have traditionally been arenas for bold science and
We agree and are accepting his challenge to lead by example. Our
next step after the assessment is to form an environmental advisory
council charged with developing a strategic plan for campus sustainability.
Please let us know if you are interested in being involved. The
more eyes we have looking in the mirror the more sustainable we
Finally, we want to remind you that Lester Brown will speak in Laxson
Auditorium on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 pm. We are hosting a forum
at 4 pm for faculty and staff in Trinity 100. Please send us questions
in advance, which we will give to Brown when he arrives so we can
engage in a deeper conversation than a typical lecture or Q &
— Mark Stemen, Coordinator of Environmental Studies, and
Jim Pushnik, Rawlins Chair of Environmental Literacy