Inside Cal State Long Beach

California’s increasing battles with forest fires (four million acres already burned) are another indication of how human-caused changes in our climate are directly affecting our safety, our economy, and our quality of life.

Many Beach graduates are fire fighters, police officers, and emergency managers and, thus, directly involved in saving lives and property. The campus is proud to develop graduates who contribute so directly to public safety.

We play another role in battling climate change. Every decision we make on campus is informed by our commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030. We know we can’t reverse climate change from just our 320 acres, but we are part of a network of more than 600 universities worldwide that have pledged to mitigate climate change and become resilient to the extremes caused by the changes.

Of course, the most powerful way we do this is by preparing thousands of graduates each year who have been exposed to the science of climate change in their classes and in the many sustainability actions that take place continuously on campus. We have a “Green Thread” through many of our courses that link multiple disciplines with environmental justice, air and water quality, city planning, and the effects of greenhouse gases. We expect our graduates to become leaders in the battle to save our planet.

To highlight the significance of our commitment to climate resilience, a year ago I created the President’s Commission on Sustainability with campus- and community-wide membership to advise me on strategies required to meet our promise of carbon neutrality. The Commissioners study transportation patterns, recycling opportunities, procurement practices, water use, energy consumption and so on. With their help, we’ve made some improvements to our campus. Here are a few examples.

Readers may have noticed parking lots with 4.75 megawatts of solar panels and electric vehicle chargers. This project was made possible through a Public-Private Partnership between the university and SunPower, and financed through a Power Purchase Agreement. CSULB retains ownership of all Renewable Energy Credits associated with the project. The clean energy that will be produced by the system over one year is roughly enough to offset:

• 12.6 million miles of passenger vehicle emissions;

• Co2 emissions from 590,000 gallons of gasoline; and

• the annual energy consumption of 557 homes.

In addition, we’ve:

• Built a battery/power storage system.

• Retrofitted our central plant (one of our largest water users on campus) to access reclaimed/recycled water. This reduces demand for potable water and allows us to use more reclaimed water for landscaping.

• Launched new student housing and housing administration building projects as the first projects in the CSU (and one of very few in the country) to be certified under the extremely rigorous Living Building Challenge standards.

• Installed state-of-the-art technology to monitor and maximize savings associated with heating and cooling our buildings.

• Fitted the carts used by facility personnel with solar panels on cart roofs so that their electric batteries can now be charged by the sun.

• Deployed recycling bins across campus grounds.

• Created bicycle and skate board paths across campus and installed tables with solar umbrellas allowing our students to charge their devices with sun energy.

• Installed drought-tolerate plants throughout campus.

• Started our Campus Master Planning process that features commitments to sustainability and resilience as key tenets guiding the plan’s development and direction. One small, but important feature of our emerging plan is to build an organic fruit and vegetable garden in the center of lower campus.

All these projects are good for the quality of life on campus, provide teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students and, most importantly, add to Southern California’s climate resilience. We are all in this together.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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