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CSUMB earns gold for sustainability efforts

With a computer keystroke on July 29, President Dianne Harrison filed a report that earned CSU Monterey Bay a gold rating from the nation’s leading advocacy group for sustainability in higher education. The university is one of only 18 institutions to receive that distinction.

CSUMB becomes the first campus in the California State University system and the second public university in California to qualify for the gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The rating, awarded in the organization's STARS program, signifies that the university is doing an outstanding job of going “green” in areas ranging from curriculum and construction to conservation of resources. STARS – which stands for Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System – measures and encourages sustainability in education and research, operations, and planning, administration and engagement.

The rating is the result of a thorough, yearlong self-evaluation process that involved faculty, staff and students. STARS is a widely used sustainability self-assessment tool that helps colleges evaluate and publicly report how they’re doing, where they can improve, what peers are doing and mark progress over time.

Examples of CSUMB’s sustainable practices: • Education and research: All students are required to take service learning courses that address sustainability; 35 percent of tenure-track faculty members are conducting research relating to sustainability. • Waste reduction: 90 percent of construction and demolition debris is diverted from landfills. • Water conservation: drought-tolerant landscaping, waterless urinals • Energy efficiency: reduced energy consumption by more than 25 percent over five years • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: All members of the campus community have access to free public transportation throughout the region.

“The idea of sustainability is embedded in the curriculum here at CSUMB,” said Kevin Saunders, vice president for administration and finance. “We’re educating the region on these issues.”

And because it is embedded in the curriculum, “Our students – who are our future leaders – can move through their lives and careers with this ethic of sustainability,” President Harrison said. In the innovation category, the university earned the maximum four points for: • The annual Focus the Region event, a daylong teach-in on environmental issues • The Chinatown Renewal Project, an effort to help revitalize a blighted though historically rich neighborhood in Salinas. Sustainability has been a consistent theme in these efforts, which include a community garden where organic food is grown; workshops on natural building techniques; a composting enterprise; a solar-energy-generating gazebo; and a vermiculture micro-enterprise. • Planning for and use of electric vehicles • The TRIPwise program, an effort to educate the campus community about alternate forms of transportation and make them accessible.

With the evaluation complete, CSUMB will continue to seek further gains in such areas as energy management, alternative transportation and waste reduction.

“This is a starting point,” President Harrison said. “We know there are many more things we can do."