How CSU ranked platinum in the Sustainable Campus Index

Isabel Brown

solar panel
The Colorado State University Recreation Center has solar panels both out front, as well as all over the roof, which is a small portion of CSU’s overall sustainability efforts, Nov. 16. (Addie Kuettner | The Collegian)

For the third time, Colorado State University received a platinum ranking from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in their annual Sustainable Campus Index.

CSU is one of many higher education institutions that reports to The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS. This is a self-reporting system that schools may use to measure their progress toward better sustainability as an institution.

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There are four rankings: bronze, silver, gold and platinum, the last of which is given to schools with a minimum total score of 85.

One of the things I love most about CSU’s commitment to sustainability is that we walk the walk.”-Tonie Miyamoto, director of communications and sustainability

The total score is calculated based on the percentage of points that are earned in various areas in which the school may grow in sustainability. These areas are academics, engagement, operations and planning and administration, all of which are broken down into 17 sub-areas.

CSU was recognized in 7 of these 17 areas, according to the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index. Under the curriculum category, CSU scored 100% and received the top ranking. 

Tonie Miyamoto, director of communications and sustainability for Student Affairs and co-chair of the President’s Sustainability Commission, described her position on the PSC as “(pulling) together faculty, staff and students from all colleges, divisions and units across the University to set sustainability goals for the University, support and/or fund academic and programmatic proposals and provide a platform for completing CSU’s Climate Action Plan goals, STARS report and sustainability strategic planning.”

The PSC has been able to establish CSU as a Bee Campus USA, expand the composting program and introduce several sustainability majors and minors, Miyamoto said.

Another example of the work PSC has done on campus is the Moby Geoexchange project, which, according to Carol Dollard, the other co-chair of the PSC and a utility engineer for Facilities Management, is almost complete.

Dollard said this project will ensure thermal energy exchange with the ground. She explains that to do this, 342 wells were drilled in the Intramural Fields, each going 500 feet deep. In these wells, Dollard said, an abundance of piping is used to accomplish the exchange of thermal energy. 

“In the summer, excess heat from the building is sent to the ground via these wells; in the winter, circulating water through the loop in the well-field extracts heat from the ground,” Dollard said.

Dollard said the wells are closed-looped, so there is no water exchange with the ground.

CSU is going to take its platinum ranking and use it as a motivator to be even better. Dollard said future sustainability projects include a massive solar project which will double the amount of solar on campus. 

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This project is just beginning, with Namasté Solar being the selected partner to develop solar on campus, Dollard said. She said the project will be financed through a power purchase agreement, in which the third party owns and operates the solar system while CSU pays them back by purchasing power from them over 20-25 years. 

“This way the University gets the benefits of solar without having to finance the installation upfront,” Dollard said.

Dollard said the solar project will allow CSU to reduce the amount of electricity purchased from the grid, which is currently about 60% coal-fired. 

“One of the things I love most about CSU’s commitment to sustainability is that we walk the walk,” Miyamoto said. “You see bikes everywhere, our students take sustainability courses, our faculty are conducting sustainability research and our staff are committed to programs like composting and food insecurity.”

Izzi Brown can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @isabelbrown02.