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Chico State

Groundsworker Emerita Luisa Garza Honored for Impact on Campus, Community

A graphic headshot of Luisa Garza set against a gray background.

The Chico State Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association (ERFSA) is pleased to announce the 2024 Hall of Honors class. Eight renowned faculty and staff members will be inducted into the Hall of Honor on Friday, May 31, 2024, during a ceremony and luncheon. Buy tickets.

Luisa Garza’s activism and environmental awareness made an enormous impact on campus and the community during her employment at Chico State.

A proud alumna, Garza worked 28 years for University Housing following her graduation from Chico State in 1985. She began as a groundsworker, then was promoted to gardening specialist, and finally became lead groundsworker. Her supervisor, Chuck Grant, assistant director of custodial and grounds, said Garza was a fantastic employee who had a tremendous knowledge of horticulture in beautifying the Housing grounds.

As Garza became increasingly concerned about the amount of pesticides used in groundskeeping, she started focusing on better disposal of chemicals, then using less fertilizer and eventually transitioned to organic gardening. Garza received a Governor’s Employee Safety Award for her efforts.

In 2000, Garza had seen enough of an annual reoccurrence in the residence halls: students throwing away huge amounts of stuff at the end of the semester as they returned home or moved into new housing. Her environmental instincts told her much of what went into the trash could be reused or recycled instead. Collaborating with Whitney Hall resident Annie Sherman and AS Recycling Supervisor Barbara Kopicki, Garza launched Diversion Excursion, a program still in existence today that has diverted thousands of tons of waste from the landfill.

Diversion Excursion included student teams going floor to floor in the residence halls, donation booths set up and staffed, and agreements put in place with partnering waste companies.

“It was the most organized and far-reaching program on campus I came into contact with over my 39 years working (at Chico State),” Grant said.

Garza led Diversion Excursion on top of her regular duties, and before retiring in 2014, she wrote an extensive manual to help those who followed in her footsteps.

Several other universities including Sonoma State and University of California, Berkeley reached out to Garza to learn how to start similar programs of their own. The City of Chico created a program called Drop and Dash with the same idea of gathering goods from students not living in the residence halls. 

In 2010, Garza received the University’s Paul Maslin Environmental Stewardship Award for Diversion Excursion and her sustainable gardening practices. The campus Gender and Sexuality Equity Coalition also honored Garza with a Maggie Award for her leadership and mentorship of other staff and students.

Garza’s penchant for service extended to the greater Chico community as well. She was a commissioner on the Bidwell Park and Playgrounds Commission and served as president of the Chico Natural Foods Board of Directors. She continues to volunteer for local organizations and activities.