Campus Operations

Facilities Facility Services is responsible for the physical and environmental maintenance, renovations and small projects, upkeep and operations of buildings, roads, parking lots, lighting, utility transports, sidewalks, waterways and landscaping. Facilities Planning & Capital Projects provides the management for programming, planning, architecture, engineering and construction of new or remodeled major capital project in support of the university's academic mission.  Both are heavily involved in sustainability on campus. 

Sustainability Advisory Committee The primary function of the Sustainability Advisory Committee is to review and recommend measures related to University sustainability policies and practices dealing with natural resource utilization, land use, and physical projects. The committee is advisory and reports to the vice president of Administration & Finance.

Energy, Utilities and Greenhouse Gas With over 5,000,000 square feet of buildings and a population of over 20,000, the Cal Poly campus is much like a small city.  Cal Poly participates in a variety of utility procurement and energy and water conservation programs to reduce consumption and manage costs.  The campus’ annual utility budget for electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash, and recycling is approximately $8M per year - $5M for State funded operations, and $3M for auxiliaries (Housing, ASI, Corporation, and other self funded organizations).  Utility master planning, procurement, reporting, recharge, construction and maintenance projects, and conservation programs are managed by Facility Services.  CSU Executive Order 987 sets standards for energy conservation, energy efficiency of new buildings and renovations, and goals for the development of on-site and renewable energy generation systems.

Back To Top

Summer Electrical Curtailment Program

Cal Poly is required by CSU Executive Order 987 to participate in a summer electrical demand response program. During periods of unusually high temperatures, the state's electrical grid can run short of supply. When this happens, the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) calls utility operators to increase supply by firing up less efficient and higher polluting "peaking plants", while at the same time activating statewide utility demand response programs to reduce consumption.

When Cal Poly is called to curtail load, Facility Services activates an automated program in the campus' building automation system. This will shut down various air conditioning and ventilation systems that have been identified as non-critical loads. For a list of the buildings and systems that will be affected, click here.

At the same time, building occupants are requested to voluntarily reduce their electrical consumption. Campus Building Coordinators and Sustainability Mentors are responsible to make sure their department has a plan in place when Cal Poly activates its demand response program. Department plans should identify concrete actions to be taken, and responsible persons assigned. Facility Services recommends the following:

  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Shut down non critical computing equipment including printers, copiers, scanners, etc.
  • Shut down non critical lab equipment
  • Raise thermostat settings by 3-5 degrees in areas that still have air conditioning

For current status of the California electrical grid, click here. For questions or assistance, please contact Facility Services at 756-5555 or

Back To Top

Total Energy Use per Square Foot

This is the primary metric used by the CSU to track progress toward energy conservation goals.  Sometimes referred to as Energy Use Index, this metric represents total annual energy use (electricity and natural gas combined – both purchased and generated on site) per square foot of building space, measured in British Thermal Units per Square Foot, or Btu/sf.  To normalize this metric between different CSU campuses, the square footage is adjusted to prorate or remove buildings and structures that are very low or zero energy users, such as parking structures, stadiums, and farm buildings such as barns and storage sheds.  The last two CSU Executive Orders on energy and sustainability (EO917 in 2004, and EO987 in 2006) established goals to reduce Btu/sf by 15% over two consecutive five year periods.  Cal Poly has met or exceeded these goals.

Natural Gas and Electricity energy use per square foot.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Back To Top


The majority of electricity use on campus is for lighting and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning).  Cal Poly purchases approximately 92% of its electricity needs from Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and generates the other 8% on site from a combination of solar PV and cogeneration.  Cal Poly has implemented numerous energy conservation projects to reduce electrical usage, including fluorescent lighting retrofits, occupancy sensors, HVAC equipment upgrades, variable frequency drives for pumps and fans, and installation of digital energy management systems.  In spite of the fact that the campus square footage has grown dramatically in recent years, electricity use has remained relatively flat – indicating that conservation efforts have been able to offset growth.  Electricity costs have escalated rapidly in recent years due to utility rate increases, more than doubling since 2002.

Electricity volume and cost.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Cal Poly has 26 different electric service accounts – two serving the main campus through the University owned Mustang Substation (representing 98% of all electric purchase), and the remainder serving a variety of remote sites including ranch houses, irrigation wells and pumps, and remote street lights (representing 2% of all electric purchase).  Power is received from PG&E at a transmission level of 70,000 volts, and is transformed at Mustang Substation to either 12,470 volts or 4,160 volts for distribution to campus buildings.  Electrical distribution in the campus core is all underground, while distribution to outlying Ag areas is via overhead lines.  Mustang Substation and all campus distribution systems are owned by the University and maintained by the campus Electric Shop.  Power is purchased from PG&E on the E20T tariff, which includes separate charges for energy and peak demand, and different time of use periods for peak/part peak/off peak and winter/summer seasons. 

Power Matrix Chart, Data can be found in table below.Power supplied by PG&E is some of the cleanest in the nation.  PG&E’s power mix includes 15% qualified renewables (biomass, geothermal, small hydro, solar PV, and wind) and another 36% non-carbon emitting sources (large hydro and nuclear).  Cal Poly (by Executive Order 987) and PG&E (by Public Utility Commission ruling) are mandated to procure 20% of their electricity needs from renewable resources by 2010.  Below is the breakdown of PG&E’s electric generation fuel sources for 2009 (courtesy PG&E):

Energy Resources PG&E Power Mix (Projected)
Eligible Renewable 15%
Biomass and waste 4%
Geothermal 4%
Small Hydroelectric 4%
Solar 1%
Wind 3%
Coal 2%
Large Hydroelectric 16%
Natural Gas 47%
Nuclear 20%
Other 1%

Back To Top

Renewable Energy and Onsite Generation

CSU Executive Order 987 established a goal for all CSU campuses to procure or generate on site 20% of their electricity needs from renewable resources by 2010.  The CSU also set a goal to increase on site generation capacity from 26 MW to 50 MW by 2014.  Of this 50 MW capacity, 10 MW are to be from renewable resources.  Electricity purchased from PG&E, considered to be some of the cleanest in the nation, currently has approximately 15% eligible renewable content (biomass, geothermal, small hydroelectric, solar and wind) and another 36% non-carbon emitting sources (large hydroelectric and nuclear).  To further reduce Cal Poly’s greenhouse gas emissions, the University installed a large solar photovoltaic system, and is investigating opportunities for even larger solar systems, wind power, fuel cells, biomass systems, and cogeneration or combined heat and power systems.

Solar PV

Engineering West Building:  In October 2006, Cal Poly completed a 135 kW solar array on the roof of the Engineering West building – at the time, the largest solar system in San Luis Obispo County.  The system generates approximately 290,000 kWh of electricity per year, enough to power about 26 homes.  It also eliminates some 310,000 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions per year.  The project was delivered as a third party power purchase, in which Cal Poly signed agreements allowing SunEdison to design, build, own and operate a solar system on campus property, while the University agrees to buy all the energy it generates at negotiated fixed rates for a 20 year term.  Compared to power purchased from the grid, this will save Cal Poly approximately $100,000 over the life of the project, and provide a hedge against utility rate escalation.

Facility Services Building – Electric Vehicle Charging Station:  In December 2008, Cal Poly completed a 2.5 kW solar array on the roof of the Facility Services building.  This project was funded by a grant from the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District, and was constructed by REC Solar.  The system generates approximately 4,000 kWh of electricity per year, enough to fully supply six electric vehicles in the Facility Services fleet, making them completely carbon neutral.

Future 1 MW System:  As an extension of the program that allowed Cal Poly to install the Engineering West solar  system in 2006, Cal Poly is participating in Phase III of a statewide solar program, involving CSU, UC, state administrative agencies, and the California Department of Corrections.  In this program, Cal Poly intends to build up to one megawatt of solar PV under a third party power purchase agreement.  Such a system would be approximately two acres in size, and could be constructed as one or more separate systems in a combination of covered parking shade, roof top, and ground mounted arrays.  The system could generate as much as 2,000,000 kWh of electricity per year, about 5% of the University’s annual energy needs.  The program is scheduled to receive proposals, evaluate potential project sites, and execute agreements by summer of 2010.

Wind Power:  As part of Cal Poly’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions, Facility Services is evaluating opportunities to develop wind generation on campus land.  Engineering studies are under way to evaluate potential sites, technologies, regulatory requirements, and funding sources, with the hopes of developing a wind farm on the Cal Poly campus that could generate a significant amount of the University’s electricity needs while providing opportunities for teaching and research.  There is already active wind power research under way within the College of Engineering at the Cal Poly Wind Power Research Center at Escuela Ranch.

Fuel Cells:  Similar to the statewide solar program, Cal Poly is participating in a California State Fuel Cell program, intended to install hydrogen fuel cells in state facilities using third party power purchase agreements.  To meet the campus’ needs for electricity and additional heating capacity as new buildings come on line, Facility Services is evaluating opportunities to implement a fuel cell combined heat and power system at the campus central plant.  Such a system would provide both electricity and hot water at very high efficiencies, would emit significantly less greenhouse gas than conventional sources, and would produce virtually zero emissions of air pollutants.  The state program, administered by the Department of General Services, is scheduled to evaluate proposals, perform site inspections, and develop final power purchase agreements by summer of 2010.

Biomass:  With over 6,000 acres of land near the campus core, diverse agricultural crops and livestock herds, a working dairy, and an active Bioresource and Agricultural Engineering program, Cal Poly has unique resources and opportunities to utilize biomass as an energy source.  A 2008 feasibility study determined that campus livestock herds produce approximately 265,000 cubic feet of manure per year, currently managed by composting and spray field irrigation under Regional Water Quality Board permit.  Campus also annually generates approximately 8,100 gallons of whey (a waste byproduct of the Dairy Products Technology Center), 300 tons of food waste from Campus Dining, and an unknown amount of greenwaste from the crops units and campus landscape operations.  When these materials decompose by normal biological processes, they release methane to the atmosphere.  Methane is a significant greenhouse gas, having 72 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after being released to the atmosphere.  Capturing methane from a digestion process to use as a fuel significantly reduces the greenhouse gas effects of the solid waste stream.  These waste streams could be used as feed stock for a combined heat and power system.  Such a system would use anaerobic digestion or other technology to break down organic waste, producing methane to fuel a generator in the form of a reciprocating engine, fuel cell, or microturbine.  Waste heat would be captured to provide space heating, domestic hot water, or hot water for process use.  The digestion system would be constructed using above ground tanks, allowing the existing Dairy lagoons to be used for storm water control rather than continuous storage, improving Cal Poly’s compliance with State waste water and storm water regulations.  Alternately, a digestion process could be used to generate methane that would be injected as pipeline gas into the campus’ natural gas distribution system, for consumption at other campus facilities.  Unfortunately, the California State budget crisis has made it impossible to guarantee that animal operations in the College of Ag will remain at their current herd size for 20 years or longer, as would be necessary to make such a system economically viable.  Cal Poly continues to monitor technologies, regulatory requirements, and potential sources of funding for future opportunities.

Dairy Lagoon Methane Recovery Research Project:  From 2002 to 2004, a research project at the Cal Poly Dairy was undertaken by Professor Douglas Williams of the Bioresource and Ag Engineering Department.  In this project, a 5,600 square foot polypropylene membrane was installed over one of the two dairy lagoons, capturing methane to fuel a 30 kW microturbine.

Cogeneration:  Cogeneration, or Combined Heat and Power (CHP), is a technology in which a single system and fuel source are used to provide two useful energy outputs at the same time.  Conventional simple cycle utility power plants, such as the gas fired Morro Bay power plant, or Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, must dispose of their waste heat to the atmosphere, ocean, lakes, or rivers.  These large scale utility power plants typically have total system efficiencies of approximately 35%, meaning that 65% of the energy available in the fuel is wasted, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.  Cogeneration systems seek to capture this waste heat and use it for space heating, production of hot water, heating of swimming pools, or other process use.  Cogeneration systems are capable of total system efficiencies of 80% or more, resulting in significant energy cost savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  Cal Poly has two cogeneration facilities in the Housing areas that provide combined heat and power to student dormitories and apartments.

Sierra Madre Cogen Plant:  The Sierra Madre cogen system, constructed in 1984, is a 350 kW unit driven by a natural gas fired Caterpillar reciprocating engine.  The system has been in operation for 25 years, generating approximately 1,900,000 kWh of electricity per year – enough to power 170 average homes.  It provides electricity for the Sierra Madre dorms and when electricity demands are low, backfeeds power into the campus distribution system for use in other dorm buildings.  The system also provides space heating and domestic hot water for Sierra Madre and Yosemite dorms.

Poly Canyon Village Cogen Plant:  The Poly Canyon Village cogeneration system, completed in 2009, is a 500 kW system comprised of two 250 kW Stowell Distributed Power units, using natural gas fired reciprocating engines manufactured by Man.  This cogen system is expected to produce 1,900,000 kWh of electricity per year – enough to power 170 average homes.  The system also provides space heating, domestic hot water, and heating for a student recreation swimming pool.

Back To Top

Natural Gas

The majority of natural gas use on campus is for space heating, production of domestic hot water, cooking, and heating of swimming pools.  Cal Poly has eight separate natural gas service accounts and receives service from the Southern California Gas Company.  Natural gas commodity procurement for the larger service accounts (greater than 250,000 therms per year usage) is provided by the California Department of General Services as part of a managed portfolio including nearly all Cal State University and University of California campuses, California State administrative buildings, California Department of Corrections, and various cities, counties, and school districts.  DGS’s Natural Gas Service program monitors the gas commodity market, and manages a gas procurement portfolio with a blend of short term and long term purchases based on market conditions and price and production forecasts.  This procurement strategy typically results in a modest cost savings compared to the open market, while significantly reducing exposure to market fluctuations and volatility.  Natural gas service for the small accounts (less than 250,000 therms per year) is performed entirely by So Cal Gas.  All campus gas distribution systems (beyond the utility owned meter) are maintained by the campus Plumbing Shop.  Cal Poly maintains extensive historical data on natural gas consumption.

Natural Gas Use and Cost.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Back To Top


Cal Poly manages water resources to ensure adequate supply, meet or exceed health standards, reduce environmental impact and cost, and conserve and protect natural resources.  Use the following links to learn more about water use at Cal Poly.

Sources and Water Rights

Cal Poly’s water is derived from three primary sources: Whale Rock Reservoir, Salinas Reservoir (also called Santa Margarita Lake), and local groundwater.  Water from the two reservoirs is delivered by the City of San Luis Obispo; local groundwater is provided via six agricultural wells owned and operated by the University.  Cal Poly has water rights for both ground water and surface water.  Ground water is pumped from six agricultural wells located on University land and is limited by relatively shallow, low capacity aquifers, especially during drought years.  By State Water Resources Control Board permit, Cal Poly owns surface water rights to Brizzolara Creek on the Cal Poly campus, and to Old Creek which supplies Whale Rock Reservoir near Cayucos.  Along with the City of San Luis Obispo and the California Men’s Colony, Cal Poly was one of the original developers of the Whale Rock Reservoir, and therefore retains rights to 34% of the reservoir capacity.  Since Cal Poly owns adequate water rights to meet campus needs, the University does not pay for its water supply, but does pay fees to the City of San Luis Obispo for delivery and treatment.  By investing capital funds to purchase a capacity share of the City water treatment plant, Cal Poly receives a discounted rate for treatment costs.  Surface water is delivered by the City of San Luis Obispo from both Whale Rock Reservoir and Salinas Reservoir.  The City of San Luis Obispo operates Whale Rock Reservoir and determines the most economical way to deliver both treated water for domestic consumption and raw (untreated) water for agricultural use.  Whale Rock water is generally used for domestic use.  Untreated Salinas water is generally delivered to Cal Poly for agricultural use. Both types of delivered water are applied against Cal Poly’s Whale Rock water rights. 

Whale Rock Reservoir Storage Chart.  Click for Accessible Excel document.


Cal Poly has aggressively pursued water conservation through water efficient new construction, retrofit of existing buildings with ultra low flow plumbing fixtures, installation of drip irrigation and irrigation controls, and use of native and drought tolerant plantings.  These efforts have resulted in water usage rates that have dropped or remained flat since 1997, in spite of significant campus building growth over the same period.  The following graphic summarizes Cal Poly’s water consumption by source type from 1997 to the present.

Water Consuption by source and type.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Cal Poly totals for water consumption and cost are given here:

Water Usage and Cost.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Cal Poly received the Water Conservation Best Practice Award at the 2007 UC/CSU/CCC Sustainability Conference for its presentation on water conservation efforts. 

Water Quality Management Plan:  To protect streams, wetlands, groundwater, biological habitats, sensitive species, and archaeologically significant areas, Cal Poly has developed a Water Quality Management Plan and a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program.  Preserves have been established on especially sensitive areas and water resources are regularly monitored.  Cal Poly has also, largely through CAFES (the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences), undertaken resource enhancement projects including improvements to riparian habitats in the Chorro Valley and migratory fish habitats along Stenner and Brizzolara Creeks. 


Cal Poly's water use for both landscape and crop irrigation is directly related to annual rainfall, and how rain events are spread out over the seasons. Due to San Luis Obispo's Mediterranean climate, there is typically very little or no rainfall from May through October. Average annual rainfall measured at Cal Poly is 21.6". To view Cal Poly's rainfall records from 1869 through 2008, click here. To view a map of average rainfall throughout San Luis Obispo County, click here . While rainfall for 2009-2010 was above average, we are still recovering from three consecutive years of significant drought, the longest sustained drought since record keeping began. This underscores the need for continued and ongoing conservation. For additional data and resources regarding rainfall, reservoir totals, and regional water resource management, visit the San Luis Obispo County Water Resources web site at

Water and Energy

The production and use of water are intimately related to the production and use of energy.  In the State of California, some estimate that as much as 20% of all electrical energy consumed is used for the pumping, treatment and transport of water.  Electrical power generation is the second largest user of water in the United States, second only to agriculture.  As consumers, it is important to understand that conserving energy saves precious water resources, and conserving water reduces energy consumption and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions.

Bottled Water

Americans have become dependent on bottled water for drinking, and many consumers believe that bottled water is better, cleaner and safer than tap water.  Most bottled water consumers are not aware of the following facts:

Bottled water costs between 240 and 10,000 times as much as tap water.

  • It takes a volume equivalent to five water bottles during production to generate one bottle of purified drinking water.
  • The manufacture of one bottle of drinking water consumes an equal amount of petroleum.
  • Bottled water is not subject to the same health standards as tap water, and in some cases has been found to contain contaminants that are not permitted in drinking water.
  • The manufacture and transport of bottled water across the country, or even internationally, has an enormous environmental footprint.
  • Plastic bottles, especially if stored for a long time or reused, can leach chemicals into the water.
  • A safer, more cost effective, and environmentally friendly way to carry your drinking water is in a refillable stainless steel container that is BPA free.

Tap water for drinking in the United States is closely regulated for purity and health standards.  If you have a need or desire to further purify your drinking water, get a filtration system at your local hardware or home improvement store.  These are much more water efficient than reverse osmosis systems, which waste approximately 75% of the water they process. 


All waste water from the Cal Poly campus is discharged to the City of San Luis Obispo’s sewer collection and treatment system.  Cal Poly, in partnership with the City of SLO, has invested capital funds to purchase a capacity share of the City’s waste water treatment plant, and therefore receives a discounted rate for waste water.  While most commercial sewer customers (in absence of a sewer flow meter) are billed for sewer use as a percentage of their domestic water use, Cal Poly’s sewer usage is measured by a state of the art ultrasonic flow meter and flume, which is calibrated twice a year.  This ensures accuracy in billing and reporting, effluent sewage volumes and cost.  Ongoing conservation efforts, such as installation of ultra low flow plumbing fixtures, have resulted in significant reductions in sewer volumes in spite of campus growth.

Sewage volume and cost.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Back To Top

Solid Waste and Recycling

Solid Waste diversion.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.Cal Poly operates an integrated waste management program that includes source use reduction, recycling, composting of food waste, greenwaste, and manure, resale of scrap metal and surplus equipment, and zero waste event catering.  Cal Poly contracts with San Luis Garbage for collection of solid waste and recycling.  Recycling containers are provided to faculty, staff, and students by Facility Services, and collection is performed by Custodial Services and the campus Recycling Coordinator.  For questions regarding recycling or to request additional containers, please contact the Recycling Coordinator at (805) 458-2602, or email

Solid Waste per capita.  Click for Accessible Excel Document.

Cal Poly’s Integrated Waste Management Program received the Waste Management Best Practice Award at its presentation during the 2008 UC/CSU/CCC Sustainability Conference.

Recycling Metrics

Cal Poly, as per Assembly Bill 75, is mandated by the California Integrated Waste Management Board to divert at least 50% of its solid waste from the landfill starting in 2004.  Campus submits annual reports to the CIWMB on the tonnage of solid waste generated by campus, and the percentage diverted from landfill by recycling, reuse, or resale.  Cal Poly has met or exceeded the 50% diversion requirement every year.  As per Assembly Bill 1016 in 2008, the CIWMB has changed the reporting methodology, and will track waste generation on a per capita basis.  The requirement for at least 50% diversion from landfill is still in effect. 

What items and materials can be recycled?

These items CAN be recycled:

Most paper, including:

  • Cardboard
  • Envelopes (even with windows)
  • Junk mail
  • Magazines
  • Newsprint
  • Stapled Paper
  • Most Plastics (except Styrofoam #6)
  • All empty beverage containers:
  • Glass, plastic & aluminum

These items can NOT be recycled:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Ceramic materials
  • Food
  • Hazardous material
  • Kleenex
  • Light bulbs
  • Paper cups
  • Paper towels
  • Squeezable paper juice containers
  • Styrofoam cups and plates
  • Wax paper

Hazardous Waste

For hazardous wastes and materials that require special handling for recycling or disposal, please use the following guidelines.

  • Batteries may be recycled by placing in an envelope and mailing to the State Warehouse.
  • Fluorescent Tubes contain mercury and should be delivered to the State Warehouse for proper disposal.
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamps contain mercury and should be delivered to the State Warehouse for proper disposal.
  • Used Toner Cartridges are recycled by Distribution Services.  Please place the used cartridge back in the packaging your new cartridge came in (sealed manila envelopes are also OK), and place next to your mail pickup location.  Please do not drop them in the campus mail.
  • Asbestos and Lead may only be handled by trained and certified personnel.  If you believe asbestos or lead containing materials have been damaged or disturbed, please contact the work control center at 756-5555, or contact Environmental Health and Safety at 756-6662.
  • Chemical Waste is handled by the Environmental Health and Safety office.

Recycling Facts

Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.

  • You can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one new one.
  • In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. This means that each adult will leave 90,000 pounds of trash for his or her children.
  • Recycling all of your home's waste newsprint, cardboard, glass and metal can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 850 pounds a year.
  • Each person generates an average of 4.4 pounds of waste per day.
  • Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminum can to light one 100 watt bulb for 20 hours.
  • Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply Los Angeles with electricity for 10 years.
  • Five recycled plastic bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.
  • Americans will throw away over 1,000,000 tons of aluminum cans and foil, more than 11,000,000 tons of glass bottles and jars, over 4,500,000 tons of office paper, and nearly 10,000,000 tons of newspaper.
  • Recycling creates jobs - incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates 1 job; land filling the same amount creates 6 jobs; recycling the same 10,000 tons creates 36 jobs.

eSurplus Program

Public Surplus LogoTo further reduce the quantity of waste deposited in land fill, Cal Poly operates an on line surplus equipment sale program.  The Public Surplus auction site is used to resell surplus equipment such as computers, furniture, lab equipment, light fixtures, tools, vehicles, audio/video equipment, and unclaimed lost and found items.  The program generates approximately $10,000 per month in revenue, which is reinvested in recycling and other sustainability efforts at Cal Poly.


The Cal Poly Farm Shop performs onsite composting of greenwaste from landscape trimmings and crops operations, as well as animal waste from the various livestock units.  The high quality compost is used on the student run Organic Farm, campus landscaping, and crops fields for soil amendment, reducing the need for chemical fertilizer.  Nearly 300 tons per year of food waste from Campus Dining is composted offsite at Engle and Gray, a licensed facility in Santa Maria. Cal Poly Compost is available to wholesale customers including local vineyards and farms.  To find out more about Cal Poly Compost or place an order, please call Farm Operations at (805) 756-2548.

Compost Seedling

Zero Waste

Zero Waste LogoThe Cal Poly Zero Waste Club is a student run organization that promotes and educates about recycling and composting.  The Zero Waste Club works with campus groups to improve operating practices, such as:

  • Worked with Campus Dining to eliminate all use of stryrofoam.
  • Developed guidelines for zero waste events – now available as an option for all campus catered events.
  • Targets large events like open house.

To make an event zero waste:

  • Request the Zero Waste option from Campus Catering
  • Use all reusable or compostable utensils, dishes, and cups
  • Use no packaged products (sugar, butter, salt, pepper, condiments)
  • Collect all waste for either recycling or composting

For more information on Zero Waste options for catered events, please see the Campus Dining page at;

Back To Top

Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change

As per California Assembly Bill 32, Cal Poly is mandated to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2020.  By Governor’s Executive Order S-3-05, Cal Poly must further reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.  To accomplish these goals, Cal Poly is making progress in a variety of areas:

  • Completion of a campus wide energy audit in 2010 to identify opportunities for conservation.
  • Implementation of energy efficiency retrofits in existing buildings.
  • Demonstration and testing of new technologies in HVAC and lighting.
  • Retrocommissioning of existing buildings.
  • Use of innovative energy systems in new buildings that far exceed energy efficiency standards.
  • LEED Certification of both new and existing buildings.
  • Ongoing development and improvements to the campus energy infrastructure at the central boiler and chiller plant, hot and chilled water distribution systems, and Mustang Substation.
  • Implementation of Thermal Energy Storage at the central chiller plant to increase efficiency and shift loads to off peak periods.
  • Elimination of CFC and HCFC refrigerants.
  • Development of on-site renewable energy sources including solar, wind and biomass.
  • Implementation of cogeneration systems for combined heat and power.
  • Migration of the campus vehicle fleet to alternative fuels, primarily electric.

For voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and documenting compliance with AB32, Cal Poly and the CSU are members of the California Climate Action Registry.

Back To Top


With approximately 19,000 students, 2,700 faculty and staff, and 6,200 on campus residents, Cal Poly is essentially a small city.  In order to supply academic departments, administrative offices, campus operations and maintenance, food service, athletics, and housing, the University’s purchasing department makes  a significant amount of office supplies, paper goods, computers, materials and equipment, food, and food service supplies available.  Deliveries to campus equate to an average of about 10 full tractor trailer loads per week.  Wherever possible, Cal Poly strives to purchase commodities that are environmentally friendly, energy efficient, recyclable, or made from recycled content.  All shipping pallets are reused, and all cardboard boxes are recycled. 

Office Paper

Cal Poly Distribution Services, which handles shipping, receiving, and mail delivery, offers office paper delivery to all departments on campus.  As per California Public Contract Code Section 12209, all paper purchased contains a minimum of 30% recycled content.  This program supplies over 33,000 reams of paper per year to the Cal Poly campus, and all users are asked to recycle used paper.

Energy Star

By Governor’s Executive Order S-20-04, Cal Poly and all State agencies are mandated to purchase energy star rated equipment and appliances whenever possible.  Cal Poly requires Energy Star certification for all computers, monitors, printers, copiers, refrigerators, and other appliances and equipment.

Sustainable Food Services

Campus Dining offers over 20 restaurants and food venues on campus with at least one food operation open every day. Campus Dining is constantly improving its operations to function more sustainably. Driven by consumer demand, all Campus restaurants avoid using polystyrene (foam) and all of the cardboard, plastic, glass, and metal used is properly recycled. The culinary chefs are mindful about purchasing fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat products from the Cal Poly Organic Farm and other local producers. Thousands of pounds of food material is composted and safely made into premium soil. Campus Dining operates biodiesel trucks and is constantly looking for ways to green things up!

Back To Top


Cal Poly strives to reduce the environmental impact of transportation, both for commuters and for the campus vehicle fleet.  In addition, Cal Poly has substantial academic curriculum and research focused on transportation planning, alternative fuels, and advanced vehicle design. 

SLO Transit Bus

Commuting Options

Cal Poly offers a wide variety of options for commuting to and from campus, including:

  • Free bus service for all faculty, staff and students within the City of San Luis Obispo.
  • Discounted bus service from the Regional Transit Authority within San Luis Obispo County.
  • Bus stops at two convenient locations within the campus core.
  • A low cost van pool program.
  • Preferred parking for car pools.
  • Guaranteed/Emergency ride home for registered commuter program participants.
  • Extensive bicycle rack parking and bike locker rental.
  • Ongoing improvements to bike lanes.
  • Telecommuting options for some employees.

For outstanding efforts to provide commuting options for the campus community, promote use of public transit, bicycling, van pool and car share programs, Cal Poly’s Commuter Services Department was recognized by the University of South Florida’s National Center for Transit Research as a Gold Winner in the “Best Workplaces for Commuters Race to Excellence”.

Zip Car

In 2009, Cal Poly implemented the Zip Car program, allowing faculty, staff and students to participate in a unique car share rental program.  For a reasonable fee, users may reserve a vehicle on line for use by the hour or by the day to run errands or take a trip.  Zip Car makes it easier for the campus community to utilize public transit as their primary commuting method by providing flexibility for the occasional errand or doctor’s appointment.  For students living on campus, Zip Car eliminates the need to bring a car to campus.  Zip Cars, including hybrid vehicles, are available at two campus locations.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Due to the size and expanse of Cal Poly’s 6,000 acre campus, most maintenance functions must use vehicles to be able to provide service to the entire campus.  This results in Cal Poly having one of the largest vehicle fleets of any CSU campus.  To minimize the cost and environmental impact of this fleet, Cal Poly has made a dramatic shift to the use of alternative fuel vehicles, including rechargeable electric, propane, bi-fuel (gas/propane), gas hybrid, and biodiesel.  Of the entire campus fleet, 27% use alternative fuels, with the largest category (25.6%) being rechargeable electric.  Within Facilities, 46.7% of vehicles use alternative fuels, again with the largest category (44.7%) being rechargeable electric.  By switching to electric vehicles, Cal Poly is able to reduce fuel costs by 83% (including battery replacement) and reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by over 90%. 

Miles Trucks at the Performing Arts Center

Biodiesel Truck Within Campus Dining, a major shift to biodiesel use has taken place.  In a program initiated by Cal Poly Biodiesel (originally a student club, now an academic enterprise), Campus Dining converted its fleet of diesel powered delivery trucks to run on B20 biodiesel fuel.  Waste cooking oil from Campus Dining is sold to a recycler for conversion to biodiesel fuel, while B20 fuel is purchased from a local supplier.  Students from Cal Poly Biodiesel have designed and constructed a biodiesel reactor, which is undergoing improvements and testing.  The group’s ultimate goal is to put the reactor into production, converting campus waste cooking oil into biodiesel for use in the campus fleet, creating a truly closed loop system. 

Biodiesel Reactor

Back To Top

Housing & Residential Life

University Housing considers sustainability an important priority in the ongoing maintenance and renovation of buildings and grounds.  University Housing invests utility savings from conservation programs and retrofit projects into a sustainability fund, which is used to support other sustainability projects and programs.  University Housing has also incorporated sustainability into many aspects of residential life, both in freshman dormitories and sophomore apartments.  These include education about sustainability, energy and water conservation competitions, recycling competitions, and community involvement. 

If you are experiencing problems when trying to open any documents linked from this page, please visit the download links provided here to obtain the latest versions of the reader software.