Long Beach State is undergoing several changes toward carbon neutrality, including developing housing that reduces energy usage. Several California State Universities are making this change.
Carbon dioxide levels have risen by 25% since 1958, and the resulting warming in temperatures has increased the rate of droughts, flooding and even death by heat-related issues.
These concerns have pushed many state governments toward carbon neutrality goals, including California. The Scoping Plan, laid out by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022, set a state goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. Through the implementation of carbon sequestration and a clean energy grid for the state, these efforts would help counter the damaging effects of greenhouse gases.
The effort taken by California has influenced universities to start taking similar actions to ensure progress toward the goal of 2045. The CSU Chancellor’s Office released a brief in April about their efforts toward carbon neutrality.
According to Tamara Wallace, CSU’s sustainability program manager, the CSU Sustainability Policy is setting a timeline and roadmap for their efforts in carbon reduction.
“The CSU is unified in our goals to reduce our carbon footprint, be leaders in the state and amongst our peers in higher education and support the well-being of our natural resources and the communities we serve,” Wallace said.
Long Beach State has started toward the carbon neutrality goals through the implementation of four solar-powered systems, which account for 15% to 33% of the campus’s energy load.
The most significant piece of CSULB’s carbon footprint stems from students and employees commuting to campus. As a result, exploring a carbon-neutral commuting program is ongoing.
This potential commuter program could take many different forms, as seen in other universities. University of California, Los Angeles, for example, has a sustainable transport program with subsidies for several transit agencies, a carpool program, and bicycling commuter benefits.
CSULB has also set down plans for new housing based on the Living Building Challenge, being the first in the CSU system. The challenge was designed by the International Living Future Institutes to build and retrofit building that consist of seven performance categories.
The categories were designed to make building that are both practical, liveable, and sustainable. The categories are the following: place, water, energy, health + happiness, materials, equality and beauty.
Place, which means that the building is designed for ecological sustainability and agriculture. Water, designing the buildings for responsible water usage and an overall net positive for water.
Energy, since the buildings need to have carbon reduction effects and net positive energy. Health + Happiness, which means it needs to provide access to nature and healthy interior environment.
Materials need to be responsible in the usage of building materials and have net positive waste. Equality means that the building is universal accessible, and beauty is for the overall appearance of the building.
Hillside Gateway and Parkside North, two residential buildings at CSULB, are development plans implementing some of the imperatives provided by the Living Building challenge. Hillside will use reclaimed water and a bioswale to reduce water usage, implement solar panels, and grow drought-resistant plants. Parkside North is increasing its energy through solar panels to 1.3 kilowatt-hours.
The plans presented by CSULB represent a goal toward reducing the impacts of climate change in the CSU system. Setting a roadmap toward reducing carbon impacts can be the stepping stone for more growth.
Chico State announced the building of a new Behavioral and Social Science Building that will be energy net-zero. Energy net-zero refers to the building only using energy that it can produce. This would be only the third net-zero building in the CSU and the largest to date when completed in 2024.
California State Northridge has retrofitted LED lighting across the campus, reducing the amount of energy used. CSUN has also launched another sustainability plan, which will start later in June.
The plan contains several different key objects for several areas on the CSUN campus. This includes establish a culture of sustainability on campus, reducing water and energy consumption and providing sustainable food.
The question remains, can this trend be successful in implementation outside initial plans?
A study conducted by the German university, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, demonstrates how carbon neutrality can be achieved for universities.
Greifswald University initially implemented its program in 2012, and their success can be traced to several points.
One reason is strong leadership that is well-defined and transparent to push initiatives forward. A leadership built in this can support an active environment for changes toward carbon neutrality.
The another was participation on all levels to have the support of the entire university to foster the development. Implementing the changes from top-down from administration and bottom-up from students assisted in the long-term success of the program.
A proactive student body raised initiatives alongside the university to pursue carbon neutrality efforts. The establishment of activities and student groups helped to serve as the basis of changes in university policy.
The long-term research potential, since Greifswald University is a large landowner, it has the unique ability to manage its local area to reduce carbon emissions. It also has the ability to test long-term research due to its situation.
There is no standard way of achieving carbon neutrality on the university level. In the case of Greifswald University, the heavy participation on all university levels was the biggest factor.
It is a method that could work for another university if the goal is systematic and capitalizes on student enthusiasm. In the end, the study believes that it will be in the hands of the students.