California State University, Northridge

Student Preparedness

CSUN offers a Minor in Sustainability that includes an innovative team-taught course with faculty from six different disciplines, a best practices course in which students conduct energy, carbon, water and waste assessments, and a capstone course that applies sustainability to a community problem. Seventy-six students are currently enrolled in the Minor and 425 students took our core sustainability classes in 2015. The university also offers a specialization track in sustainability within the Interdisciplinary Studies degree, a General Education Path in Sustainability which provides a connected path through G.E., and a Climate Science Program, funded by NASA, which offers STEM students a chance to explore climate change research. CSUN recently gained full marks in AASHE STARS for its academic course offerings in sustainability with 22.5% of its courses either focused on or including sustainability. Eight of the twelve areas of General Education required of all undergraduate degree programs include sustainability learning outcomes

CSUN is one of only a handful of universities across the country to assess sustainability knowledge. The assessment, shared nationally, has been administered to over 2,700 CSUN students. Students completing one or more sustainability courses scored an average of 72% compared to 48% for the general campus population. Over 600 students attended the university’s Sustainability Day event in fall and 400 to the spring Water Day event. More than 200 students participated in the organic food garden and composting operations in fall, and the seventeen residence halls competed in the Campus Conservation Nationals last spring.

Climate Innovation

CSUN has partnered with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), a business incubator that accelerates development of clean technology start-ups through CEO coaching and mentoring, and access to experts, capital, office space and equipment. LACI offers workshops for budding entrepreneurs at CSUN, creates student competitions, mentors students and has helped launch six CSUN Cleantech companies so far. CSUN is incorporating innovation in its curriculum through a new Entrepreneurship Program, and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Innovative technologies are an integral part of CSUN’s approach to climate adaptation.

A team of engineering students are constructing eight portable solar charging ‘trees’ (winners of Best Student Achievement at the last CSU Facilities Management Conference) to be deployed throughout campus to charge laptops, cell phones, tablets and other portable electronic devices. The faculty-student run food composting program, which won the Innovative Waste Reduction Award at CHESC last year, diverts almost 20 tons of food waste from landfills each year and generates about 5.5 tons of compost which is used on the food garden. The Earth Day event was completely solar-powered this year.

Supported by a grant from the local utility, CSUN has conducted public workshops in Los Angeles on energy efficiency, water conservation, and residential rebates. This spring twenty-four students conducted energy and water assessments for local businesses. Eighteen teachers in local schools have taken part in the K-12 Sustainability program in which faculty train teachers on energy and water measuring devices and assist them in developing problem-based learning for their classrooms.

Creating Opportunity

Carbon emissions associated with energy use have been reduced by 9% since 1990, even though building area has increased by 96% and student numbers by 25%. CSUN has turned off irrigation on 200,000 sqft of landscaping, removed over 230,000 sqft of turf and replaced it with drought-tolerant landscaping to save water. Other innovative strategies further reduce water use include hydrogel injection which has reduced irrigation demand by more than 50% on turf saving 55 million gallons a year; and a smart weather-based irrigation system which continuously monitors flow rates in 62 irrigation zones. Used in conjunction with a warning system, developed in-house, personnel are alerted of leaks so they can be fixed immediately. Low-flow and waterless urinals, faucet aerators and signage are installed in every bathroom. Water use has been reduced by 22% since 2013. The GoPrint application saved 1.7 million pages of paper last year. Transportation measures reduced students commuting via single occupancy vehicle from 72% in 2010 to 59% in 2015. Our new waste program has improved our diversion rate from 35% three years ago to 57% now.

CSUN leads a Campus-Community Climate Leadership task force sharing technologies and strategies with the community, and identifying adaptation measures to be tackled jointly. Through the university CalFIRE-funded program students and community volunteers will soon plant trees at a shadeless elementary school in a disadvantaged area. 100 children and parents participated in the LADWP-supported Sustainability Showcase. CSUN has offered a dozen Go Solar workshops, each attracting audiences of 20-100 in the community.