Institute for Sustainability offers campus green options

Tanya Ramirez

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CSUN’s solar panels, bicycle racks, food garden and bright green recycling bins are all innovations created by the environmental masterminds at the CSUN Institute for Sustainability.

The Institute for Sustainability, located in Santa Susana Hall, is a research and planning center that is dedicated to eco-friendly decision-making and bringing green options to CSUN.

The institute was founded in 2008 and since its inception, CSUN has reduced its carbon footprint and has become a role model for sustainability within the San Fernando Valley.

“Every day our population is increasing,” said Helen Cox, director of the institute, “If we continue to live without sustainability, our planet and home is going to run out of resources. We don’t want that to happen.”

The institute’s planning and primary activities are organized by what Cox calls “the core green team.” The core green team consists of faculty members from various disciplines including, social and behavioral science, mathematics, biology, engineering, urban planning, political science and more.

Cox said members of the green team also teach the core coursework for CSUN’s sustainability minor, which was first offered in Fall 2011.

The minor requires students to take three core courses, which focus on practices for sustainability and teach students real-world problems and economic impacts caused by wasteful choices.

“Our minor is actually quite popular,” Cox said. “Our classes fill up rather quickly and we’re trying to open up more sections in the future.”

CSUN creative writing major Chelsea Turner,19, said she chose the minor because she has a strong appreciation for the environment and wanted to learn more about going green.

“Sustainability classes are beneficial in that they force students to reflect on their own actions as well as their ability to create change,” Turner said.

Recreation and tourism management major, Myra Castillo, said she too has been inspired by her coursework in the minor.

“I love the fact that I’m learning about current trends in sustainability,” Castillo said. “It’s great because it incorporates all different majors and interests, and everyone can make a difference.“

Turner said the minor also gives students a chance to become involved with the community and actually make changes on the CSUN campus.

“The most memorable community project I have worked on was in the 400-level sustainability course,” Turner said. “My group discussed the benefits accrued by CSUN should the university choose to turn off all of the computers on campus for at least 8 hours a day. This was beneficial because it gave me insight to a field I had never worked in before [energy], and it offered the chance to present to authority figures.”

The CSUN Institute for Sustainability also works with nonprofits to produce annual awareness events and community projects.

Such events include garden workdays and workshops on water conservation and green practices.

In honor of Earth Day, the institute will be hosting its annual Orange Picking Day on Sunday, April 22 at the CSUN orange grove.

Oranges picked by CSUN students, staff and community members will be donated to the SOVA food bank to feed the hungry.

The CSUN Institute for Sustainability also conducts monthly reports regarding CSUN’s environmental progress in order to allocate funds and planning for future projects.

Cox said the institute is currently working with the CSUN Bicycle Club to construct more bike paths and create a bicycle rental program on campus.

Also in the works is a CSUN phone app that tells students whether campus parking lots are full or not.

“A phone application with a GIS [geographic information system] map can deter students from circling parking lots and wasting fuel,” Cox said.

The institute also plans to open a ‘living learning community’ program within CSUN housing. The program will encourage students to maintain and use the CSUN organic food garden located on the Northridge Academy campus.

“There are many benefits to going green,” said Sarah Johnson, administrative analyst for the CSUN Institute for Sustainability. “It’s good for the planet, your health, your wallet and future generations. We only have one planet and we need to treat it with respect.”