Cal Poly Campus Sustainability Efforts Recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

National organization singles out upper-division solar energy class and student-run food cooperative

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly has been recognized for its campus sustainability efforts by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in an annual report honoring top-performing colleges and universities.

The 2017 Sustainable Campus Index singled out best practices in schools overall and in 17 sustainability impact areas, as measured by STARS — the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. The report, released Nov. 6, also highlighted innovative and high-impact initiatives from institutions that submitted STARS reports in the 12 months prior to July 1, 2017.

“Recognition by AASHE underscores our campus commitment to sustainability,” said Dennis Elliot, the university’s director of energy, utilities, and sustainability.  “We continue to work toward the goal of transforming Cal Poly into a carbon-neutral campus by 2050.”

Cal Poly achieved STARS silver status in 2017 with a score of 62.57 under the four-tier rating system: platinum (85 points), gold (65 points), silver (45 points) and bronze (25 points).

Two Cal Poly programs received kudos in food and dining, and curriculum areas listed in the 81-page annual publication.

Higher education institutions are uniquely positioned to understand and address sustainability challenges, the publication said. Through curriculum, educators help “equip students to lead society to a sustainable future,” AASHE said in a piece highlighting a Solar System Engineering class in Cal Poly’s BioResource and Agricultural Engineering program.

In 2016, students designed and constructed a 5-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Building using solar panels donated by the SunPower Corp. Cal Poly Facilities helped develop the course curriculum and system design and provided a mini-grant worth five years of the energy the project will produce.

The students went on to create Cal Poly Project Solar, which received status and funding as a university Instructionally Related Activity, with a goal of building more systems on campus.

Food and dining is another key impact area. AASHE said universities can use food purchases to influence sustainability. It singled out Cal Poly’s Real Food Cooperative for its goal to supply more real food products to the campus community and provide students with a Learn by Doing opportunity to manage and establish a food service operation.

“The student-led club hosts a vending booth that provides gourmet grab-and-go meals, offering peer education on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet,” AASHE said. The group also reinstated a Community Supported Agriculture produce box program that sources organic produce from the Cal Poly farm and then sells weekly and quarterly shares directly to Cal Poly students, staff and faculty.

AASHE was established in 2005 to help coordinate and strengthen campus sustainability efforts at regional and national levels and to serve as the first North American professional association for those interested in advancing campus sustainability.

More Online

The 2017 Sustainable Campus Index is available at:

Cal Poly’s STARS report is available on the STARS website at:

About Cal Poly Sustainability

The 2014 CSU Sustainability Policy aims for all campuses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2040. On Earth Day 2016, Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong signed the Second Nature Climate Leadership Commitment to take Cal Poly beyond this goal and reach full climate neutrality by 2050, meaning net zero emissions from all sources. For more information, visit

Contact: Kylee Singh

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