From planning sustainable practices to implementing and educating about them, Chico State has proven to be an innovative and engaged campus. And earlier this month, one of the country’s most respected agencies in advancing sustainability in higher education recognized the University for its efforts.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) released its 2021 Sustainable Campus Index—a report recognizing top-performing colleges and universities in the US and Canada in 17 sustainability impact areas—and ranked Chico State at No. 5 in the Master’s Institutions category, up three spots from 2020.
This is the fourth consecutive year the University has been ranked in the top 10, and the first time in the top 5. Chico State’s energy and climate analyst Gregory Wiggins said the AASHE ranking showcases the campus’s commitment to sustainable efforts.
“The Sustainable Campus Index gives us a platform to display our potential to continue leading in sustainability on a national level,” he said. “It is extremely humbling and exciting to be recognized as a top-5 performing master’s institution.”
AASHE uses the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) framework to measure sustainability performance of colleges and universities. Developed with broad participation from the higher education community, the credits included in STARS span the breadth of higher education sustainability and are organized into four categories: academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration.
Receiving a Gold rating, Chico State is one of five CSU campuses to make the top 10 in the Master’s Institutions list, including No. 3 CSUN, No. 7 Humboldt State, No. 8 San Jose State University and No. 10 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Wiggins said that Chico State’s Green Campus students contributed greatly to this ranking. For example, the students attained Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation certifications for multiple areas of the campus, highlighting the importance of and efforts Chico State takes to conserve natural wildlife. Additional measures include providing safer bike-securing practices on campus (based on data compiled from students) and the annual This Way to Sustainability conference, one of the largest student-run college conferences in the nation, among others.
“The future is going to rely on driven and environmentally conscious young adults doing the right thing,” Wiggins said. “The Green Campus crew may be a small part of that demographic, but the reach of their initiative has caused real change to Chico State as a whole.”
Wiggins points to recent developments in local and global climate conditions that require Chico State to maintain its high level of environmental vigilance. A higher presence of drought and resulting natural disasters necessitate continued thorough and comprehensive assessments geared toward the environmental impact of human actions.
“Chico State must stay on top of environmental and sustainable efforts if it wants to successfully navigate whatever changes the future may bring,” he said. “In this regard, I’ve noticed high levels of motivation across the board from University employees and students, and know that this institution already practices a high level of environmental stewardship.”
The AASHE achievement comes a month after The Princeton Review recognized Chico State on its annual Green College Honor Roll, a list of 27 colleges and universities that received the highest score possible in the publication’s annual Green Rating’s tallies. Chico State was the only CSU campus listed. Resilient and sustainable systems is one of the University’s three strategic priorities, as Chico State strives toward a just and resilient future through the advancement of environment, social, and economic sustainability. Commitments include becoming climate neutral by 2030; cultivating knowledge, research and practice to increase awareness on the impact of individual and collective actions; being wise stewards of resources and embracing sustainability as a way of living; integrating sustainability into the curriculum, research and campus operations; and recovering and adapting to significant difficulties or challenges.