Cal Poly aims to make the grade in sustainability

Cal Poly highlights several areas of resourcefulness in its third biennial report on its mission and implementation of sustainable operations on campus.

The report spotlights the new Poly Canyon Village that houses 2,640 students on 30 acres, and it details aspects of the university’s energy use, transportation, water resources, recycling and other efforts.

The 27-page report, produced by communications firm Barnett Cox & Associates of San Luis Obispo, defines sustainability as the way to “use natural resources to meet current needs without jeopardizing the needs of future generations.”

The Poly Canyon complex — which includes retail stores, laundry and study areas, and recreation — features energy-efficient lighting and appliances, low-flow water fixtures and water-conserving landscaping.

More students living on campus has led to a decrease in commuter traffic and emissions, according to the report, which says more than 30 percent of students live on campus now compared with 15 percent in 2002.

The complex also qualifies under the internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building certification system, which takes into account several factors, including energy and water efficiency.

Cal Poly announced that its overall water usage increased as hundreds of students moved into Poly Canyon, but it was not as much as expected.

“(Cal Poly) estimated that the overall annual demand for water after Poly Canyon Village would be over 1,200 acre-feet per year,” the report states. “Actual use in 2009 was about 1,000 acre-feet per year.” About 800 acre-feet of water was used in 2005.

As the new campus apartments were built, Cal Poly also restored nearby Brizzolara Creek to facilitate fish passage, which had been impeded by an old bridge.

The report also states that more than half of Cal Poly’s solid waste was recycled or reused, which met the university’s goal.

Future goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring water-quality standards in creeks and groundwater, and constructing all new major building projects using environmental standards.