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Chico State

Chico State Earns Coveted Top Spot in Prestigious AASHE Sustainability Rankings

A screenprint of a logo that says "Earth Month"
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Screen printing bags was offered as Associated Students hosted a Celebrate Earth Day event on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Chico, Calif. This year’s theme is “Think Globally, Act Locally.”, with a focus is to get creative and share sustainable activities and practices with the local community. The event features live music, vegan-friendly food, a clothing swap, and tons of activities such as a pedal press, DIY planters and beeswax food wraps. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)

Chico State’s commitment to sustainability is spelled out in its Strategic Plan, prioritizing resilient and sustainable practices across campus, and can be seen across the University grounds in both its practices and the habits of its students, faculty, and staff. Recently, the University received a handful of honors to distinguish it from the rest of the California State University and other institutions in both the West region and across the nation.

In its 2022 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI), the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recognized Chico State for its environmental practices and commitment to sustainability, honoring it as the top performer in its Master’s Institutions category.

Additional CSU campuses in the top 10 were CSUN at No. 5, San José State University at No. 6 and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at No. 8.

Jennifer Rotnem, director of energy and sustainability, noted this was the first time Chico State earned the Master’s category’s coveted top spot—marking the fifth consecutive year the University placed in the top 10 and second straight year in the top 5—an accomplishment that took an effort of the entire campus community.

“The campus community should be very proud of this achievement, which reflects the collective hard work and dedication to sustainability of many faculty, staff and students,” Rotnem said.

Using data from its Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), AASHE recognizes top-performing colleges and universities from around the world. It also included top performers according to impact area, from buildings and transportation to waste and air and climate—Chico State performed well in a pair of these rankings, as well.

Chico State ranked No. 8 in the Curriculum category (the only CSU campus listed) which looks at courses, programs and learning outcomes in sustainability, living laboratory initiatives, immersive experiences, sustainability literacy and faculty development.

The other impact area the University appeared in was the Water category, tied for No. 9. This category focuses on water conservation and reuse, as well as effective rainwater management practices.

Additionally, AASHE awarded Chico State with an overall Gold Rating. And although the University is close to achieving a Platinum Rating, Rotnem said doing so will not be easy.

“We have picked the areas we knew we could be recognized in—now, we need to focus our efforts within each division of campus to improve sustainability practices and capture our progress,” she said. “Chico State could be the first CSU to go from Gold to Platinum, but it will take a commitment from leadership, an investment of time and resources, and hard work from faculty, staff and students.”

Rotnem feels optimistic, in part due to continued areas of achievement in recent years. Among numerous areas of growth, she noted that the University recently added bike lanes. It has also made reductions in water use in its landscaping to support conservation efforts due to the drought, and implemented reusable takeout containers and coffee cups as standard practice in its dining services and coffee shops.

From an academic standpoint, a faculty-learning community helped implement better sustainability and resilience in the curriculum among more than 80 courses at six CSU campuses thanks to a faculty learning community led by geography and planning professor Mark Stemen. And, of course, the University continues to host the annual This Way to Sustainability conference, one of the largest student-run college conferences in the nation.