California State University, Fullerton

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Campus Earns Silver for Sustainability Performance

Sept. 13, 2012

woman at table signing official document

President Mildred García signs the cover letter for the STARS assessment submitted to AASHE.

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In the just completed assessment of its sustainability efforts — in operations, administration, curriculum and research — Cal State Fullerton has achieved a silver rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. It was developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) with participation from the higher education community.
The silver rating — the second tier of of four-tier rating system — reflects the campus's efforts to become a more green, sustainable institution and places it among such institutions as UCLA, Loyola Marymount University and several of its CSU peers.
“We had hoped for silver, based on what other institutions of our size had done and what we had accomplished,” said Willem van der Pol, director of facilities operation, noting this is the first time CSUF has participated in the process. “This was a very broad net thrown over the campus to measure all efforts of sustainability. It was a two-year-long process and a learning experience for lots of people on campus.”
The assessment covers:

  • Operations — including buildings, dining, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste and water
  • Planning, administration and engagement — i.e., investment, diversity and accessibility, planning and human resources
  • Education and research — integration into research, curriculum and co-curricular activities

“It couldn’t have been done without the efforts of geography graduate students Leaa Short and Tamara Wagner, who spent a year interviewing and studying every facet of Cal State Fullerton in their effort to complete the STARS study,” said van der Pol. “Scott Hewitt [professor of chemistry and biochemistry] helped tremendously in the curriculum and research area, leading that part of the data gathering. Many members of the campus community dug deep to get the information Leaa and Tamara needed for this study.

“Interim VP for Administration and Finance Bill Barrett was instrumental in this assessment, as well. Bill was responsible for the planning, administration and engagement component of STARS,” van der Pol added. “This was one of the more difficult areas for collecting data as our current University’s organizational structure doesn’t reflect our involvement with sustainability.” 

“We did  very  well, I think for our first   effort to document all that we are doing,” said Barrett. “And we're looking to improve,  basically in all areas.”

Hewitt agreed. “It was exciting to see so many sustainable activities occurring on our campus. We were very happy to achieve a silver rating, especially given that we have not made a really concerted sustainability effort on our campus. By that I mean, we don’t have a director of sustainability, nor a sustainability office. It has been more of a grassroots effort on our campus by individuals or groups of faculty, staff and students.”
Among the University’s achievements:

“Where are we going?" asked Hewitt."We are going for the gold!” he declared. “We hope to become more sustainable in all areas: education, research, operations, planning, administration and engagement. Our last round of University Mission and Goals Initiatives (UMGI), which were focused on sustainability, should be a catalyst for this. 

“I’m currently teaching a special section of “UNIV 100,” which is focused on academic success, campus involvement, community engagement and sustainability. I call the class ‘iSustain.’ The students in the class will be involved in sustainability projects at the Fullerton Arboretum. This is part of a UMGI grant written by John A. Bock [professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Sustainability], Nancy Fernandez [director of freshman programs], and I to develop a sustainability minor for CSUF undergraduates.”

In addition, Hewitt and van der Pol are working on a “Great Debate,” a public forum about sustainability on our campus.

“And, of course, there are many other UMGI sustainability projects taking place at CSUF this year,” Hewitt continued. “As a campus, we need to continue to adhere to the Presidents Climate Commitment, which was signed by Milton A. Gordon during his tenure as CSUF president. Our university sustainability task force also will be looking at how we can become more sustainable and achieve a gold rating in three years from STARS. Eventually, we will need to have a director of sustainability and a sustainability office to coordinate all of the sustainability activities on campus.
“This [the STARS assessment] was just a starting point,” van der Pol emphasized. “Sustainability is the issue of our time. It’s very important that we get our minds wrapped around it. Institutions like ours must stress the value of understanding the profound changes we are in the midst of, helping our students find their way in a different world and being a tool in turning the challenges into opportunities.”

To read more about the Cal State Fullerton survey results, visit the AASHE website

By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852

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