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Students and faculty collaborate on a CSU-wide sustainability workshop

  • November 5, 2009

For the CSU system, the way to sustainability goes through Chico.

The Chico campus is hosting “This Way to Sustainability” November 5-8, the fifth system-wide conference for regional and academic environmental issues. Cal State East Bay will be represented by Professor Karina Garbesi (geography and environmental studies), who will lead an all-day workshop Friday on climate action planning for CSU campuses.

Although the CSU system has not yet adopted a comprehensive climate action plan for its 23 campuses, Garbesi explained, individual schools are beginning to explore options for reducing environmental impact. The workshop aims to create a model action plan framework for CSU campuses based on existing models.

But rather than taking on the whole six hours herself, Garbesi turned to her students. The presentation, materials and workshop became the project for this quarter’s field study course for undergraduate and graduate students.

The students will not only attend and participate in the discussions, they will present their research on environmental issues, lead small breakout groups in brainstorming, moderate discussions, take notes, and coordinate the results into a comprehensive recommendation for the CSUs.

“We have done so much research,” said Gina Bacigalupi, an undergraduate who has also worked on coordinating the scheduling and attendance. More than 15 students from the class will be traveling to Chico to participate.

“There’s no book we can go to for the answer. We have to do it all,” said classmate Brandon Johnson. He pointed out that they did have some starting places, such as less comprehensive environmental policies from cities and counties in California, and the University of California Office of the President’s policy requiring each campus to plan for carbon neutrality. But there are relatively few models, and each location has different considerations that planners must take into account.

The class divided into several groups to research different areas such as land use, energy use, city planning, transportation, water management, and waste and recycling issues. Each group prepared PowerPoint slides with charts, graphs, and sources, and chose representatives to speak at the conference.

Bacigalupi, with an interest in sustainable agriculture and food, is eager to see food sourcing and purchasing included in more plans. For Johnson, who is interested in landscape design and architecture, the integration of buildings and green space with concern for energy use will be a key element.

In addition to CSU faculty, staff and administrators, representatives from businesses, student organizations and the community will attend the four-day conference. Presentations will examine sustainability from several angles, with sessions ranging from recycling to sustainable health care to sustainability in spirituality.

Following the conference at Chico, Garbesi and the students will host a CSUEB university-specific climate action planning workshop Dec. 11.

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