As CSU continues to achieve sustainability awards, students say efforts should increase

Erin Douglas

Though CSU has won four awards in the past year for sustainability efforts, students say there is room for improvement concerning sustainability on campus.

Zero-waste events contribute to CSU’s sustainability efforts around campus. They aim to either compost, recycle or upcycle the majority of waste, according to Sheela Backen, operations manager for Facilities Management.  She said it is extremely expensive for the University to host zero-waste events.


Recycling bins are located in virtually every building on campus and are one of the ways the CSU stays green. (Photo Credit: Ryan Arb).
Recycling bins are located in virtually every building on campus and are one of the ways the CSU stays green. (Photo Credit: Ryan Arb)

“For a lot of the zero-waste events, we pay to have it composted because our composter on campus can’t handle any more than what is currently produced at the dining halls,” said Backen. “In order to do more zero-waste events, we need another composter, which would cost about $200,000.”

Backen said most zero-waste events still create some trash. There are typically only two or three zero-waste events throughout the academic year — one is held during the Ram Welcome picnic.

“For the new student and family picnic, we partnered with TerraCycle to upcycle the chip bags,” said Backen.

When an item is upcycled, it returns materials back to a usable form without decreasing their value. For example, upcycling a chip bag will ensure it can be re-used as a chip bag indefinitely, since the upcycling process returns resources to the supply chain. In contrast, when an item is recycled, it is used differently than for its original purpose, prolonging the time before it ends up in a landfill.

Efforts such as zero-waste events contributed to the four sustainability awards that CSU received in the last year.

Higher scores in energy, waste and water categories helped CSU receive the No. 4 spot on Sierra Magazine’s annual “Cool Schools 2015” ranking for the September/October issue. CSU was ranked No. 11 in 2014.

CSU was ranked No. 1 on the America’s Greenest Universities list for in July. In April, CSU was one of 24 schools that made Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll by receiving the highest possible score. In March, CSU was named the first institution in the world to earn a STARS Platinum Rating from AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Additions to alternative energy efforts helped CSU increase its score throughout the rankings. There are now 10 solar arrays, with four more underway, and 17 LEED-certified buildings on campus.

Even with these awards, some students said CSU still has room to grow in its sustainability efforts.

“I think if we could get recyclable bags campus wide, (that) is something we could improve on,” said Acacia Sublette, a junior natural resources management major and resident assistant at Summit Hall. “Most people think we can recycle plastic trash bags, but we can’t.”


Summit Hall is the only residence hall that has paper recyclable bags to go in the residents’ recycling bins, according to Sublette.

Incoming students should be informed about the City of Fort Collins’ and the University’s efforts to sort trash, recycling and cardboard, according to sophomore psychology major Dominique Westenberger.

“It is essential that freshmen see others here actively pursuing the goal to protect the environment, rather than just saying we believe it is important to do,” said Westenberger.

Collegian Sustainability Beat Reporter Erin Douglas can be reached online at or on Twitter at @erinmdouglas23.