A Gold Star for Sustainability, and a How-to Series for Viewers at Home

Water fountain with a recycled water sign next to it.

Water fountain on El Paseo De César E. Chávez. Photo: David Schmitz.

Improving sustainability demands more than a string of individual actions. It requires partnerships.

That’s why the SJSU Office of Sustainability is working with a long list of campus partners to continue making the campus cleaner and greener.

Its achievements were rewarded last March when SJSU received a Gold rating from STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. STARS is a “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance,” awarded San José State its level Gold ranking this spring, with a score of 71.91.

The Gold ranking is not merely a measure of good recycling or energy-efficient buildings but evaluates numerous efforts: academics, campus and public engagement, facilities, transportation, waste management, and energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The Gold ranking recognizes not only the buildings, but what’s happening inside and outside them–the web of partnerships geared toward improving sustainability on campus.

Senior Utilities and Sustainability Analyst Debbie Andres said that the challenge of a three-year campus-wide audit was important in helping to infuse sustainability practices throughout campus. “In 2016, we were the first CSU to get the Gold ranking,” she said. “That was really exciting.”

This summer, together with a list of partners, the Office of Sustainability is hosting a Summer Workshop Series, short videos offering tips on using public transportation, reducing food waste–even “conscious closet cleaning.”

The first offering in the video series, in partnership with the Women’s Wellness Center, was Conscious Closet Cleaning Part 1. Soozy Zerbe, zero waste student intern at the Office of Sustainability, explained much more than shared ideas about how to reduce unwanted clothing. Zerbe said the global fashion industry has a higher carbon impact than airlines or shipping. Student president and co-founder of the Women and Wellness Club Guadalupe Moreno said in the video that in addition to reducing waste, “cleaning out your closet is great for your well-being and a method of self-care.” The video contains a tidy closetful of highly informed data about how much clothing we unthinkingly send to the landfill. “Cluttering takes up space, and decluttering can make you feel calm and relaxed,” Moreno said.

Andres said the idea for the topic originated with Moreno, who noticed how often students are posting questions and sharing information via videos on sites like Instagram. The summer video series evolved from an initiative dreamed up by students into a broader way to help the campus community think about sustainability at a time when regular modes of outreach can’t happen.

“It’s on YouTube, so people can access these videos any time. I thought there was so much information we could share out there.” Students pay attention to and learn through media like Instagram videos, Andres said—and all the more so now, when they aren’t crossing campus or dropping in the sustainability office, which they have always done frequently in the past.

The workshop series, Andres said, was formed during events earlier this summer, with the goal of offering people at home a set of “how-to” guides in an easy to watch format. “For me, and for my office, sustainability isn’t just about environmental sustainability. It’s about people. If we’re not protecting people on the planet, we’re not protecting the planet.”

More tips on keeping sustainability in mind in the home and office will appear in three more videos throughout July. Videos coming in August include gardening at home in small containers (with AS Community Garden), public transportation tips (with AS Transportation Solutions), and cooking tips when shifting to a plant-based diet, with the Spartan Veg Club. Spartan Eats partnered on a video about how to reduce food waste when on campus, and how SJSU incorporates sustainability in food options. The last video in September, made with SJSU’s Spartan Food Pantry and SJSU Cares, will discuss how to apply for Cal Fresh benefits, and how to access the Spartan Food Pantry and other basic needs resources on campus.

“It just started morphing into ‘What else would students be interested in learning about?’ It was a team effort with my students to reach out to organizations that were doing awesome things that tied in with sustainability.”

Follow @sjsugreencampus on Twitter to get the full schedule of videos and their release dates.

Earth Month 2020 Goes Online

Student on the tower lawn doing a yoga pose.

Yoga on the Tower Lawn, one of many resource fair activities for Earth Week 2019. Photo by David Schmitz.

Fifty years ago, on April 22, Gaylord Nelson created history by choosing to commemorate the legacy of the only home we know, Earth.

Affected by the devastating oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast in 1969, the former U.S. Senator and Wisconsin governor led a grassroots movement with the hope that the day would inspire people to listen to the environment and collectively share the responsibilities that humans owe to the planet.

The founder of Earth Day, Nelson, ’39 Political Science, was an SJSU alumnus. Despite COVID-19 derailing full-scale campus events and activities, San Jose State remains committed to Nelson’s story.

This year, Earth Month has moved online. A good benefit to having an online celebration such as this, is “that not many people are driving, and that’s way less air pollution already,” said Debbie Andres, ’07 Chemical Engineering, SJSU senior utilities and sustainability analyst.

This April, the SJSU Office of Sustainability is running a robust social media campaign, the Earth Day Eco Challenge, in collaboration with campus Environmental Resource Center (ERC) and Cesar Chavez Community Action Center (CCCAC). In addition, there are a host of exciting educational events and activities in the form of virtual teach-ins, reading assignments, workshops, green career panels, and discussions, all of which will offer an opportunity for students to join in the environmental conversations.

Earth Day was founded on the spirit of teach-in—an activity Nelson designed to educate people about the environment. According to Katherine Cushing, professor of environmental studies, “there are many sources out there that discuss possible linkages between large scale environmental issues, such as climate change, air pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Earth Day assignment, “COVID-19, Climate Change, and the Environment,” that Cushing built for her students will help put many different factors surrounding these issues in perspective.

Cushing has been spearheading the effort to provide the faculty with resources for incorporating a sustainability component in their courses this month. Six different assignments are available that are applicable to majors from a wide range of academic disciplines, ranging from business to biology.

A plaque in front of a tree which says planted in honor of Gaylord Nelson.

Every year, students plant a tree on campus. Photo by David Schmitz.

April Events:

Menstruation, Stigma, Zero Waste Period

Tune into this pre-recorded event posted on both the Sustainability Office’s and Gender Equity Center’s YouTube channel. Get to know about the taboos, misconceptions, and sustainable methods for a greener world. This event is brought to you by the Gender Equity Center and the Office of Sustainability. All genders welcome.

April 16: Being the Change: Book discussion

Noon–1 p.m.

This one-hour discussion on climate change will run with Eugene Cordero, SJSU meteorology and climate change professor. The group will be reviewing Chapters 1-6 of Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed. Register to attend Being the Change.

April 21 and 23: Sustainable Designs and Buildings on the SJSU Campus

April 21: 9–10: 15 a.m. and 1:30–2:45 p.m.
April 23: 9–10:15 a.m. and 1:30–2:45 p.m.

Join Art History Professor Molly Hankwitz and her students as they present a series of brief presentations on sustainable design materials and resources on the SJSU campus. Featured buildings include the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, the Student Recreation and Aquatic Center, and the Diaz Campion Student Union. Original posters designed by students will also be previewed in honor of Earth Day. Register in advance for this meeting.

April 22: The Climate Reality Project

12 p.m

The climate crisis is already affecting ecosystems and communities across the globe, but it is not too late to take action. This climate reality presentation will show you how. The presentation is non-partisan, from the perspective of science. The presentation is broken into three parts—”Must We Change,” “Can We Change” and “Will We Change.” Engage with Emeritus Professor and Director of Sbona Honors Program & Thompson Global Internship Program Bill DeVincenzi and ask any questions you may have. Register for The Climate Crisis: What you need to know.

April 29: Green Career Panel

Noon–2 p.m.

The Green Career Panel will be hosted in partnership with the Career Center, followed by networking opportunities. Learn from and engage with panelists from the California Water Efficiency Partnership, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, The City of San Jose, Rising Sun Power. Register for SJSU Green Career Panel Registration.

April 30:

Participate in the SJSU Earth Month Instagram Giveaway! Learn more at @sjsugreencampus via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Learn more about the university’s sustainability practices by reviewing the 2017-2020 SJSU Sustainability Report.