Campus Sustainability Update, Fall 2020

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 11:22am

TO: All campus
FR: Karen Moranski, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Joyce Lopes, Vice President for Administration and Finance
As fires continue to affect California and the whole west coast and we face more days in which the air is often unhealthy to breathe–climate change is foremost in our minds. Our well-being here at Sonoma State is intimately tied to the health of our planet.
To build the future we want, SSU recognizes the unique role that universities play in sparking innovation and change in our communities through open discourse and research and in preparing our students for careers in a changing world. We take very seriously our role as thought leaders in this space.
Our “stacked” challenges of COVID-19, fire season, enrollment shortfalls, and budget cuts cannot prevent us from pursuing our commitment to the future. In fact, these challenges should prompt us to do even more. On April 5, 2019, President Sakaki signed the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment, the most important commitment an American university can make to sustainability. The President committed SSU to identifying strategies for achieving carbon neutrality, improving regional resilience to climate change, and infusing sustainability into the academic curriculum.
The President’s Sustainability Advisory Council (PSAC) continues to keep us on track towards our goals. We have completed a greenhouse gas assessment and are on track to meet our resilience and academic planning goals. As we plan, we have simultaneously taken action:

  • We are building on our successes from last year by improving our STARS® ranking from bronze to silver.
  • We are increasing communication about sustainability issues through the Center for Environmental Inquiry’s (CEI) partnership with Latinx community leaders to elevate Latinx voices in climate change planning.
  • We are growing opportunities for our students to learn how to work together on sustainability and resilience challenges within their area of interest.
    • The School of Science and Technology is supporting student success by focusing on regional sustainability challenges with a $1 million donation from the Koret Foundation to establish a First-Year Experience program where students will explore environmental issues at SSU’s Osborn Preserve on Sonoma Mountain.
    • On Aug. 26, 2020, CEI launched Rising Waters, a new program that funds faculty and students working in cross-disciplinary teams with community leaders from all sectors of society. This year, we are studying the intersection of Water Quality and Homelessness with leaders from water, social, health, and environmental sectors.
    • With funding from the National Science Foundation, CEI is creating virtual field experiences that allow students to build observational skills and first-hand connections for ecosystems around the world during the pandemic.
  • We are making big strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With funding from the Chancellor’s Office, we are installing a solar power system in campus parking lots over the next several months. Once complete, SSU will be the largest solar energy producer in the entire CSU system.
  • We are making our campus healthier and safer through SSU Facilities’ ban on campus use of the herbicide RoundUp. In addition, new radio towers at the Osborn Preserve and atop Darwin Hall transmit images to a county-wide fire camera network to assist emergency responders.

You can learn more about sustainability efforts at Sonoma State through our new Sustainable SSU website, which hosts links to an energy dashboard and a map of sustainable features on our campus. This useful map tool was created as part of a student project by SSU graduate, Elif Myers.
Support for our sustainability and resilience efforts will continue to come from Claudia Luke, Director of the Center for Environmental Inquiry, who will serve as the Sustainability Programs Director and from Dr. Mark Perri, Associate Professor of Chemistry, who serves as Faculty Sustainability Chair. Megan Varnadore, Director of Transportation and Parking has taken on new responsibilities as Sustainability Operations Director. Megan is replacing Craig Dawson who has left SSU for a job with the Maritime Academy. We extend our gratitude to Craig for the work he has done in moving sustainability forward during his tenure with SSU.
Our thanks go to the hardworking members of our campus community who have made considerable progress on our sustainability efforts. We celebrate these efforts at a time when addressing climate change has never been more important.