HSU Eyes Ambitious Emission Cuts

In another effort to address climate change, Humboldt State University unveiled an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, eventually, become carbon neutral.

HSU’s Climate Action Plan, which offers strategies to guide the campus to reaching CSU system-wide emissions goals, is now available online.

The 26-page report includes more than 50 strategies that can be implemented to address greenhouse gas emissions that come with operating a modern university campus. HSU joins other CSU campuses in developing the plan to align with the CSU Sustainability Policy.

The plan sets a course for the campus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, followed by a reduction to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2040, and finally to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. It also positions the University to potentially make greater reductions on a shorter timeline.

The University is currently on track to meet or exceed the 2020 target and will need to implement strategies outlined in the plan to reach the 2040 goal. That would call for reducing emissions by roughly 1,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide—or the equivalent of about 3,500 barrels of oil—every five years to reach the 2040 goal.

Humboldt State has committed to trying to go well beyond the requirements of the CSU Sustainability Policy. Last fall, HSU President Lisa Rossbacher introduced carbon negativity as a “moon shot” goal. She said the campus would seek to reach or approach carbon neutrality by 2030, and then continue to progress and become carbon negative.

Developing the report relied on the input of a faculty, staff, students, and community members who were tasked with developing emissions reduction strategies focusing on several areas:
* Natural gas, electricity, and fleet fuel use

  • Commuter and business travel
  • Solid waste, purchasing, and food
  • Curriculum, research, and student engagement

Examples of these efforts would include installing rooftop solar photovoltaic systems on campus buildings, developing a bike share or bike rental program; requiring paper towel composting; and developing a sustainability minor.

The report comes after more than two years of research and analysis. It outlines ways to implement the strategies, starting with the recommended formation of a Sustainability Committee that will be tasked with carrying out the plans.

The report builds on some of HSU’s important achievements in addressing environmental responsibility. In 1987, students created the Graduation Pledge, committing its supporters to social and environmental responsibility. Establishment of programs like the Schatz Energy Research Center, the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, and the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund have moved the campus forward. In recent years, HSU has become a national leader in greening up its endowment investments, discontinuing sales of plastic water bottles, and ending the use of plastic shopping bags. The campus completed a greenhouse gas inventory in 2014, and in 2016 became a Charter Signatory for the Campus Climate Commitment, which encompasses the goals of achieving carbon neutrality, as well as improving community resiliency.