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STEM Engaged Learning

Best Practices in Sustainability at CSU Northridge

CSU Northridge's Best Practices in Sustainability course (SUST 310) is designed to teach students current and best practices for planetary sustainability on an individual, institutional, regional and global level. Topics focus on reducing carbon emissions and pollution, and supporting a healthy and sustainable planet, including: clean-energy technology, water conservation, agricultural-based strategies for sustainable farming, management and preservation of natural resources, natural building techniques and clean transportation systems.

For the Fall 2012 semester, 30 students enrolled representing a range of majors from 17 departments across the campus. This diversity in disciplinary perspectives and approaches enriched and expanded the discussions and experiences about energy efficiency. After receiving foundational information on general concepts of sustainability (3 hours), energy concepts (9 hours) and water concepts (6 hours), students conducted self-assessments of their energy and water footprints using tools (e.g. kill-a-watt meter, infrared laser thermometer) that they later used to conduct assessments on campus and in the community. Then, the students participated in two service-learning projects: one on campus which was a pilot of a "sustainable office program" and one in the community.

Working in teams of five, students assessed six on-campus sites and seven off-campus community partners. Students prepared reports of their findings, discussing their good/best sustainability practices and also included recommendations for improvement.

The assessments provided important information about operations on campus. For example, while office staff may be contributing to energy consumption, in some cases, they have no influence because the thermostats for air conditioning, a high contributor to energy consumption, are controlled by the physical plant management department. The assessments gave office staff the knowledge and tools to ask for changes in their departments. As a result, light control sensors were installed in the Geography Department. The efforts of students in SUST 310 will continue with both on- and off- campus partners well into the future.


CSUN students compost to learn about best practices in sustainability on campus.

To learn more about this grant project, we invite you to watch this video:

CSUN Office Assessment Web from Mechelle Best on Vimeo.