California State University- Sacramento

Sacramento State has created a campus composting facility to educate students about reducing and reusing waste. Students learn about a variety of methods of composting, including vermicomposting, hot composting and windrow composting. The operations of the facility are primarily run by students and the waste being composted comes directly from campus. Having the compost facility reduces the campus waste tonnage, GHG emissions and costs, while educating students. The composting facility is open to all students campus-wide as either a volunteer or for academic credit. Students have also began research on the ability and efficiency of using compost generated on campus to sequester carbon and offset the GHG emissions generated on campus. Some courses in Urban Agriculture and Family and Consumer Sciences have been augmented to include hands-on learning at the composting facility. All internships follow the “Campus as a Living Lab” philosophy, allowing students to improve the operations of the campus, as they learn about sustainability in the university setting.

Sacramento State regularly collaborates with our local community regarding climate neutrality. In 2016 we became the first University Affiliate of Keep California Beautiful, which aims to reduce waste, increase recycling and decrease littering. This partnership increases student learning projects and grant funding opportunities.

Focused on sustainability, energy efficiency, and climate innovation, Mechanical Engineering and Construction Management students and faculty recently built a Net-Zero Solar Home and a Tiny House. Information learned from these research projects will be implemented into campus operations, improving efficiency and leading Sac State towards Climate Neutrality.

Climate Innovation

Sac State’s “Closed Loop” is the innovative, green, and climate-change response to California Assembly Bill 1826—a strategy so successful that not only did it accomplish the organic waste diversion of which the bill intended, but it helped to make Sac State a recognized state leader in organics diversion all while improving outdoor air quality and addressing climate change for the entire Sacramento region! Organic waste, when aggregated and covered over in landfills, decomposes anaerobically and produces a methane gas estimated by some studies to be nearly 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide! Sac State decided to meet the demands of this bill head on with a bold strategy called the “Closed Loop” that was just not innovative, but effective on a multitude of levels, campus departments, and community partners. The University’s Transportation and Parking Services purchased a fleet of 8 shuttles that run on Bio-Compacted Natural Gas, a product that burns around 95% cleaner than regular fuel. Sac State purchases this fuel from Clean World, a local anaerobic digester that turns food waste into this cleaner burning fuel. To close the loop, Sac State sends food waste from the University’s Dining Commons to Clean World weekly, diverting tons of organic waste from the landfills, ensuring that all of that food would never have the chance to become harmful, destructive methane gas. In the program’s first semester in 2015, it diverted 26.49 tons from the landfill and nearly 55 tons its first year!

Creating Opportunity

Sacramento State has partnered with the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) to implement a Demand Response System that enables the campus to reduce power consumption when the grid is at peak demand. The Demand Response System is aimed at reducing blackouts for the local community while reducing GHG emissions. Sacramento State also partners with the Western Area Power Authority (WAPA) to receive hydroelectric power. This federal program enables the campus to utilize hydroelectric power to reduce GHG emissions and energy consumption from the grid. In 2016, 2 million kWh of power was gleaned from this program. On campus, 2000 solar panels line the roof of the Library and WELL Health Center. Our carbon footprint is reduced by approximately 216 metric tons of CO2 per year because of it.

The Sac State Sustainability team regularly hosts sustainability tours for the local community, elementary schools and other Universities. The tours are a way to share our best practice work in Climate Neutrality, so that GHG emissions reductions can be achieved by organizations outside of campus and in the local community. Tours also serve as a catalyst to interest local children in the field of sustainability, planting the seed for future climate Scientists.