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2016 HACU/Solution Generation Award Winner: CSU Northridge

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From more than a dozen submissions, CSU Northridge was recognized for its leadership in promoting awareness of climate change and sustainability. Dr. Dianne F. Harrison, the school’s president, is engaged at a level we don’t often see in higher ed, and demonstrates how to be a vocal and visible leader across her campus. Harrison has also served as an advocate regionally and nationally on climate change and sustainability. Shortly after Harrison’s arrival on campus, she included sustainability as one of the seven planning priorities for the university and, in 2013, initiated a 10-­year Campus Sustainability Plan. She was an early signatory of the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and served as a member of the Commitment’s steering committee from 2013 through 2015, also serving as co-­chair of the Governance and Policy Committee. In October 2015, she became a charter signatory of the Climate Commitment Charter. Starting this year, President Harrison is making the community engagement pillar of the Sustainability Plan a top priority.

CSUN receives Climate Leadership Award
Dr. Antonio Flores and Bob Perkowitz present the Climate Leadership Award

“It is a great honor to receive the 2016 HACU Solution Generation's Climate Leadership Award, and I am so thankful for the leadership of HACU and President Antonio Flores on this important topic,” California State University, Northridge President Dianne F. Harrison said. “As one of the largest and most diverse universities in the country, we see ourselves as a living laboratory, engaging with our communities and focusing on critical issues such as sustainability and climate change. We educate nearly 40,000 students each year to be leaders in their communities. CSUN’s faculty, staff, students and alumni work throughout Southern California to multiply the positive effect of our research, our education, and our leadership to help the region adapt to the environmental challenges we collectively face. This is the path to a sustainable future.”

Among other initiatives on campus, CSUN has developed an innovative waste-­to-­compost-­to-­food program to close the loop and move closer toward zero waste. CSUN students are diverting over 40,000 pounds of pre-­‐consumer waste/year and turning it back into food via an on-­campus compost facility and organic garden. Students pick up kitchen waste from the various campus dining locations and coffee grounds from campus coffee shops daily and transport it to a student-­built compost facility. When compost is yielded, it is mixed into organic vegetable beds in the student-­run garden to provide nutrients for food production. Fruit and vegetables grown in the bed are donated to volunteers. CSUN has also instituted a program, Campus As A Living Lab, which engages students from a number of different classes in using the campus as a real-­world laboratory for sustainability studies.

Credit to CSUN Today, Students on Earth Day 2016

Northridge will use the $10,000 in award money to support its University President‐led Campus-­Community Climate Leadership Task Force (CCCLTF). Harrison and the University are meaningfully engaging campus and community members to develop solutions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The CCCLTF is assisting with climate action and resilience planning that supports both campus and community goals and facilitates joint action. The award funds will be used to support faculty, student leaders, coordinators, and student interns who will work for the three Neighborhood Councils that comprise Northridge and their planning organization, Northridge Vision. In projects and programs with these community groups, the representatives of the CSU Northridge campus will inject climate and sustainability know-­how and extend the University’s expertise to the wider Northridge community.

“President Harrison provides an excellent example of leadership that not only points the way forward towards sustainability on our college and university campuses, but how to inspire faculty, staff and students in taking on leadership roles themselves,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores. “Action on climate change will require effort by all of us, and the programs and actions taken by CSU Northridge creates a model well worth emulating nationwide.”

“It’s so inspiring to see CSU Northridge, and President Harrison chart a new course for higher education on climate change and sustainability. We need new ideas. We need leadership. President Harrison and CSU Northridge are showing us the way forward,” said Bob Perkowitz, ecoAmerica President and Founder.