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Guiding Principles

Cal Poly is committed to leadership in sustainability in both academics and operations.  The University's efforts in this area are guided by a number of principles and policies.

2014 CSU Sustainability Policy

In May 2014, the CSU Board of Trustees, with Governor Brown in attendance, adopted the first CSU system wide Sustainability Policy. The Policy aims not only to further reduce the environmental impact of construction and operation of buildings, grounds, and infrastructure, but to integrate sustainability across the curriculum. Cal Poly's polytechnic, hands-on, learn-by-doing approach is uniquely positioned to educate the leaders, problem solvers, and decision makers that will battle the effects of climate change. The CSU Sustainability Policy established goals to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2040
  • Procure 33% of energy supply from renewable sources by 2020
  • Increase on-site energy generation from 44 to 80 MW by 2020
  • Reduce per-capita landfill waste 50% by 2016 and 80% by 2020
  • Reduce water use 10% by 2016 and 20% by 2020
  • Promote use of alternative fuels and transportation programs
  • Procure goods that are recycled, recyclable, or reusable
  • Procure 20% local/organic/free trade food by 2020
  • Integrate Sustainability across the curriculum

Cal Poly has already achieved the goals of reducing GHG emissions below 1990 levels, and has reduced its water use by 31% since 2013, five years ahead of the CSU mandate. Initiatives are underway to make progress toward all other goals of the CSU Policy.

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Second Nature Climate Leadership Commitment

For Earth Day 2016, President Armstrong signed the Second Nature Climate Leadership Commitment, making Cal Poly a Charter Signatory to the largest climate change initiative in higher education. Participating campuses must create Climate Action Plans to achieve carbon neutrality and climate resilience as soon as possible, and infuse these topics into curriculum, research, and student experience. Cal Poly has established a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, and is working with regional partners to ensure campus resiliency to impacts from climate change. To achieve these goals, Facilities and the City and Regional Planning Department collaborated to create Cal Poly's first Climate Action Plan. The CAP included a comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory which showed Cal Poly has already reduced emissions below 1990 levels, in spite of a 100% increase in building square footage and on-campus residency.

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In March 2016, Cal Poly adopted the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) as a framework for implementation, measurement, and improvement of sustainable practices across the entire University. The voluntary point-based rating system measures sustainability performance in the areas of Curriculum and Research, Campus and Community Engagement, Operations, and Planning and Administration. Cal Poly has earned a STARS Silver Rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements. The Cal Poly’s STARS report is publicly available here.

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White House Pledge - American Campuses Act on Climate Change

In November 2015, Cal Poly, the CSU, and over 300 other universities signed the White House pledge "American Campuses Act on Climate Change" to amplify the voice of the higher education community in advance of the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, and inspire world leaders to commit to action on climate change. In addition to supporting the Paris conference, the CSU committed to reducing carbon emissions from energy use and transportation, increasing on-site generation of clean renewable energy, and utilizing campuses as living laboratories to educate the climate change leaders of the future.

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Talloires Declaration

Composed in 1990 at an international conference in Talloires, France, the declaration is the first official statement made by university administrators of a commitment to environmental sustainability in higher education. The Talloires Declaration is a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities.  Cal Poly became a signatory of the Talloires Declaration in 2004.  With the leadership of President Warren Baker, the passionate commitment of faculty, staff, and students, and the ongoing work of two University Sustainability Committees, significant progress has been made on all ten points of the action plan.

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CSU Executive Order 987

Cal Poly operates under Executive Order 987, the CSU Policy Statement on Energy Conservation, Sustainable Building Practices, and Physical Plant Management. This document sets minimum efficiency standards for new construction and renovations, and establishes operating practices intended to ensure CSU buildings are operated and maintained in the most energy efficient and sustainable manner possible while still meeting the programmatic needs of the University.

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Cal Poly Energy Policies

These policies and procedures are intended to provide guidance to Facility Managers and the campus community regarding acceptable building temperatures, efficient building operations, procurement and use of Energy Star appliances, criteria for justification of air conditioning, and design and operation of energy efficient air conditioning systems. Cal Poly adheres to Executive Order 987 for Building Users [DOC] and follows strict Air Conditioning Project Procedures [DOCX].

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California AB32

California Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, seeks to mitigate global climate change by reducing emissions of known greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide.  The bill, signed into law in 2006, establishes a goal of reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, then reducing emissions to 80% below that level by 2050.  This is to be accomplished by a combination of energy efficiency measures and generation of energy from non-polluting and renewable resources.

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California Climate Action Registry

Cal Poly and the California State University are members of the California Climate Action Registry, a voluntary program for reporting and tracking greenhouse gas emissions, and the reductions necessary to meet AB32 goals.

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