About Cal Poly Sustainability Efforts

Sustainability at Cal Poly

"Climate change poses challenges to society unseen in human history. We are at a crossroads in which the disciplines of business, politics, public policy and technology must collaborate to drive innovation and implement real solutions. As a comprehensive polytechnic university, Cal Poly is uniquely positioned to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders, innovators, and decision makers who will confront this challenge. That is why I chose to commit Cal Poly to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and integrate these efforts into curriculum, research, and student experience through Learn by Doing. Our children and grandchildren deserve no less."
- President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California

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.

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.


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.

To learn more about the guiding policies for sustainability at Cal Poly visit sustainability.calpoly.edu

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