Sustainability in Progress

Greenhouses providing sustainability on the University Riverside Campus. Photo taken Aug. 5 by Michelle Caldera.

Michelle Caldera

Prompted along the school sidewalk near the Panther Express is a sign that reads, "Drought tolerant improvements in progress." This sign is one of many scattered throughout the Rancho campus. The golden grass and bland shrubbery indicates Chaffey's successful attempt at creating a sustainable environment. By redirecting water usage to more efficient areas on campus, Chaffey is using innovative ways to establish a better future.

Colleges all around Southern California are taking dramatic steps to conserve water as the state enters its fifth year of a severe drought. Colleges aim to preserve and restore environmental resources through sustainable actions without interfering with campus lifestyle. Plans for conservation have shown improvements just within the past year by reducing water usage and the amount of electricity used on school grounds. 

An informative drought sign sits outside the administrative building i the Rancho Cucamonga campus. Photo taken Aug. 5 by Michelle Caldera.

The reconstruction of Chaffey College has enabled conservative and restorative measures within the campus lifestyle through these sustainability practices. Just recently a utility field on the Rancho Cucamonga Campus has been transformed into a parking lot as a way of conserving water usage.

"Chaffey has saved 50 million gallons of water since the implementation of sustainability practices," said Sam Gaddie, sustainability and environmental safety officer at Chaffey College. 

Currently, Southern California of Edison is working with Chaffey College to conserve on electricity and anticipates $700,000 to create energy efficient measures. Gaddie has created plans around the Rancho campus to ensure such measures.

Other initiatives of sustainability have been made by planting drought tolerant plants throughout the west region of the Rancho campus, reducing electricity usage by controlling thermostat temperatures efficiently and redirecting water usage to main athletic fields. Chaffey College has future plans of conserving energy sources by installing solar panels throughout the parking lots of all three campuses.

As part of the American College and University Climate Commitment, California State University of Northridge has provided measures of its own by enacting a 10-year sustainability program to reduce carbon emissions. A compost program has also been initiated which collects pre-consumed food waste from the dining locations at Northridge to create compost.

“Water conservation has exceeded by 4-5 percent," said Austin Eriksson, the sustainability program manager at Cal State Northridge. “Waste management has also increased by 5-10 percent.”

Social media has become an effective channel to promote awareness of current environmental conditions. On Twitter, the link #Sustainability shows the current rates of success for major companies who are utilizing sustainability practices. These practices are controlled and balanced through economical, societal and environmental factors, which help to improve measures of conservation for natural resources.

The University of Riverside offers courses in environmental sustainability and provides programs that allow students to research new innovative ways to conserve on natural resources. A three-acre botanical garden with long, rugged pathways leads to more than 3,500 plant species and is home to nearly 200 bird species. The gardens plant materials are used to support courses in environmental research and the crops that are grown are sold at the student store on campus.

Other measures include electric car charging stations located throughout the campus and programs that initiate recycling and waste management. Green houses are also provided on school grounds. They have increased green power by 3-4 percent by using 3.3 mega watts of solar energy. In addition, the university's goal is to divert landfill by 95 percent by 2020, and by 2045 to reach a net zero on all green house gas emissions.

"By creating these measures, we are reducing the total projections of carbon footprints through our current civilization," said John Cook, director of sustainability at the University of Riverside. "Students are becoming educated through social and environmental equity that will influence behavioral change through guidelines and control."

Projections of success are continuous as university officials control measures of sustainability.

Through conservation and supportive programs to environmental sustainability, the long-term effects of restoring natural resources may be more attainable as communities work together to maintain environmental stability.