CSU reduces, reuses, rethinks environmental effects

Gerson Flores

Following the plan to use 100% renewable energy by 2030, Colorado State University recently acquired renewable energy certificates that don’t just benefit people in the present, but also future generations.

Over the last couple of years, CSU has committed itself to reducing its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas output. One of the ways the University is doing this right now is by purchasing RECs, which aim to ensure electricity use becomes 100% sustainable.


“It is our responsibility, just like any other institution, to live in a way where we aren’t impacting future generations, and right now, we are not living that way,” said Carol Dollard, a representative for the President’s Sustainability Commission and utilities engineer at CSU Facilities Management.

Dollard said she and her team believe the best way to promote sustainability and responsible energy usage is by taking action.

The President’s Sustainability Commission tries to “reverse greenhouse gases — mostly carbon, for lack of a better term — to help avert a climate crisis,” Dollard said.

One way CSU does this is by buying RECs, or credits, and they are the financial aspect of sustainability. Certificates and credits are interchangeable in definition, but “certificates are a better term,” Dollard said.

By buying these RECs, CSU knows the energy its using is clean, and RECs allow for green projects to take place across the globe, Dollard said.

“You basically help projects happen in other places,” Dollard said. “It’s a financial way for you to move the needle a little faster and to help catalyze projects elsewhere.”

We have this commitment to get to 100% renewable energy by 2030. We have made that commitment, and the City has made that commitment.” -Carol Dollard, President’s Sustainability Commission representative

Electricity use accounts for 50% of CSU’s greenhouse gases, Dollard said. The remaining 50% is the result of natural gas, airline travel, commuting, agriculture, fleet vehicles and refrigerants. If CSU can produce enough clean energy to eliminate that 50%, it’ll keep its commitment to achieve full renewable energy.

“We’re transitioning to make our electricity carbon-free,” Dollard said. “We have this commitment to get to 100% renewable energy by 2030. We have made that commitment, and the City has made that commitment.” 

Dollard said power is being produced on campus, and new ways to transform energy are always being tried.

“We’re doing projects on campus with the renewable energy certificate,” Dollard said. 


These projects include setting up 30 acres of solar power on campus, in which CSU has 3,000 solar panels, Dollard said.

Despite this, Dollard receives comments every day from people saying how these sustainable practices will only make the cost of electricity rise. Whenever she receives this feedback, Dollard refers to the City’s electric costs over the years and shows that the prices have only risen by a couple cents since 2006.

“To say that solar or wind energy is going to make our prices rise is probably disingenuous,” Dollard said. 

While Dollard said she knows not everyone can just buy solar panels and windmills, there are still ways students can help reduce CSU’s carbon footprint, which include turning lights off whenever they’re not in use and using a bike or longboard to get to campus. 

I think it’s great that we’re pushing to be more sustainable, and I hope other schools follow CSU in this.” -Bryce Hill, CSU junior veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences major

No matter who it is, every student has the capacity to help push eco-friendly policies, Dollard said.

“I always tell people that using less is useful,” Dollard said. “We can work as a University and go out and reduce our carbon (footprint) or electricity, but it’s even better if we don’t use it at all.” 

Working together, faculty and students can take steps to become more sustainable, Dollard said.

The new REC acquisitions are just the beginning.

“It’s cool how the school has committed as a whole to maintain the whole sustainability initiative,” said Bryce Hill, a CSU junior majoring in veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences. “I think it’s great that we’re pushing to be more sustainable, and I hope other schools follow CSU in this.”

Dollard also emphasized the importance of young people taking initiative.

“There’s been a lot of climate strikes where young people are standing up and saying, ‘Hey, you guys are trashing our planet. Can you work on that?’ so we try to work on that,” Dollard said. “When I think about it, we have to do it for a lot of reasons. I have grandchildren, and I have to look at them and say, ‘They are our future’ and make sure that they’re going to live in a better world.”

Gerson Flores Rojas can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @GersonFloresRo1.