California State University, Northridge

Sustainability at California State University Northridge is a campus-wide effort that involves everyone. The university provides many opportunities for students to explore the value of sustainability: a minor in sustainability, a new climate science program, and a graduate certificate in Sustainable Practices. Students are proactively involved with the creation of the school’s Climate Action Plan. The university also works with communities in local cities promoting the benefits of solar energy, and preparing people for a future with less water. Northridge is constantly trying to find innovative sustainable practices. The university is working towards establishing a culture of sustainability across the entire institution.

Student Preparedness           

A university-wide sustainability curriculum committee developed student learning objectives and created a minor in sustainability, which is team-taught by faculty from twelve different departments. In 2012-13, 29 students graduated with a minor in Sustainability, last year, 55, and currently 76 students are enrolled. A new Climate Science program was developed in 2012 with funding from NASA, which includes student internships at the Jet Propulsion Lab. To ensure that all students have access and exposure to the issue of climate change a general education path in sustainability was created two years ago and organizes G.E. offerings around the theme of sustainability. A new 100-level G.E. course in understanding climate change was introduced this year and is co-listed by three different colleges. A graduate certificate in Sustainability Practices has been created.

Students completed service learning hours which allowed them to gain experience in the green economy. They participated in campus-wide exterior and interior lighting surveys; researched ingredients, contacted vendors, and completed the Real Food Challenge; assessed sustainability practices in employee offices; analyzed commuting practices; composted; grew food; coordinated events, and ran the Farmers’ Market. In their capstone course, students researched and developed parts of the school’s Climate Action Plan. Students worked with community partners like Food Forward, a non-profit group who rescue fresh local produce that would otherwise be wasted and distribute it to the hungry; The Transit Coalition, which helps to develop an environmentally sound public transportation system for the region; NASA, through their internship program; and many others.

Climate Innovation

The university is running workshops in the community in partnership with local cities on how to “go solar”. These cover everything residents need to know to make a decision about solar, the costs and financing options, and how to go about the process. Through one of Northridge’s alumni and partners the university offers a free web-based price-benefit analysis and consultation service. So far it has offered twelve workshops this year.

Another initiative has been to address the drought conditions in California with projects that prepare people for a future with less water. Through turf removal and native plant installations, use of a smart weather-based irrigation system, and extensive leak detection surveys CSU Northridge has saved 4.7 million gallons of water this year (almost 15% over last year) and plan to continue with an anticipated additional savings of 4.6 million gallons next year. In areas where grass is required for recreation, they are experimenting with a gel-injection system in which water-absorbing gel is injected at the roots to retain moisture. The university’s utility provider, LADWP, came to campus to witness the technology and is now evaluating its integration into the city’s water savings program.

The university created a compost program in collaboration with their food services, where students collect and process all kitchen waste into compost for the food garden. Almost 16 tons of food waste were processed this year. A new resiliency center is being considered to foster partnerships for a more resilient community in the face of ongoing climate change, drought and other threats.

Creating Opportunity

Approximately 54% of the university’s emissions come from commuting. This year they conducted a campus-wide survey to map student and employee commutes, and assess modes and preferences. This informs their continued negotiations with LA Metro and the local councilmember’s office on increasing public transportation options. The University has installed 23 EV charging stations this year. Working with their local power supplier, LADWP, the university was able to collect a $40,750 rebate for this project, without which this project would not have been possible. The University launched a ZipCar program this year, which has been so successful that they have tripled the number of cars in a single year. ZipCar reports that CSU Northridge has one of the highest usage rates they have encountered. The university partnered with RideLinks to institute a ridesharing application, which helps to connect riders and drivers, and is now marketing this program to increase ridership.

CSU Northridge has begun its LED upgrade project and is replacing all exterior lights with LEDs. An interior lighting retrofit program is being piloted, testing smart lighting fixtures. They are carrying out a feasibility study for expanding the university’s solar installations and are working with Panasonic and LADWP on this. CSU Northridge’s Central Plant was upgraded last year to install a system of new boilers for greater control and scalability. They have a program in place to install Cool Roofs on all their buildings, and another program to install building-level meters. Building energy use assessment is being conducted by students in 2 classes in the engineering school.