Campus, News

The Beach strives for sustainability

Long Beach State has updated its water conservation efforts during California’s driest year and employed the use of solar powered energy to create a more sustainable campus.

California’s ongoing drought is the worst it’s been since 1896, according to California’s drought tracker. The years 2020 to 2022 specifically have been the driest years on record with 2023 expected to extend that record.

The Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners declared a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage in May, the same month Gov. Gavin Newsom implored the state’s largest water suppliers and water associations “to take more aggressive actions” in water conservation.

The Long Beach Water Department called for water restrictions which went into effect in June. Some of these restrictions limited landscape watering, prohibited hardscape watering with a hose (driveways, sidewalks, parking areas, patios, etc.), and required turning off a fountain or any water feature that did not recirculate water.

CSULB took measures to comply with all of the regulations set by the department.

“The campus is always looking to conserve water, but the drought declaration and recent water use restriction notices prompted a modification of the irrigation schedule in some areas,” said Holli Fajack, CSULB sustainability coordinator.

Outside the dining hall, a sign in the bushes reads, "we&squot;re in a drought!"
Outside the dining hall, a sign in the bushes reads, "we're in a drought!" Photo credit: El Nicklin

Brent Tickel, interim manager of grounds and landscaping services, said that the sprinkler irrigation system on campus has sensors that detect rain. He said that after a certain level of rain has been met, the sprinkler system will shut off automatically.

CSULB’s weather station can track moisture levels to prevent overwatering as well.

Tickel said that even though the irrigation system is mostly automatic, there are some sprinklers that must be shut off by hand due to damage to the system caused by rodents or wire deterioration.

Fajack said she was surprised that sprinklers on campus were still on during Tropical Storm Kay in September.

Of the 78 acres of green spaces on CSULB’s campus, 48 are watered using reclaimed water.

“In 2019, the campus expanded its plumbing infrastructure to allow reclaimed water to be used in our Central Plant cooling towers as well as for landscape irrigation in additional areas of campus,” reads CSULB’s report in STARS.

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a self-reporting measurement tool used to grade colleges and universities based on how sustainable they are.

Students have the option between recycled and landfill trash. Each trash can provides an explanation as to which bin their trash belongs in.
Students have the option between recycled and landfill trash. Each trash can provides an explanation as to which bin their trash belongs in. Photo credit: El Nicklin

CSULB was graded Silver in 2021. Above Silver is Gold, with Platinum at the top. These grades are based on overall scores in different categories including water use, electricity use, academics, sustainability and several others.

Silver is the most common grade among colleges and universities and represents the average score leaving room to improve.

Shawn Cun, energy and utilities manager for CSULB, reported a score of 3.16 out of a possible six points for water use and a score of 2.95 out of six for building energy efficiency. UCLA scored only 0.78 out of six points in the same category while CSULA scored 5.78 out of six.

“I do know that most, if not all, buildings are equipped with occupancy sensors for the lighting, which would be activated during the night when the custodial staff come through to clean,” Fajack said.

CSULB has four solar panel systems which supply 15% of the campus’ energy consumption. The campus also uses energy-efficient LED lights and demand-based heating and cooling systems.

“The university is actively retrofitting lights to LED technology. Currently, 75% of all exterior lights and 40% of all interior lights have been retrofitted to LED lights,” reads the university’s STARS report.

CSULB’s STARS grade is valid until 2024 when the university will have to self-report its performance again.

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