Sacramento State Member Spotlight

Climate Action Plan

As centers of education, collaboration, and scientific and technological advancement, universities occupy an important position in local responses to climate change. This position allows universities to explore innovative methods of adapting and mitigating to climate change, and then share that knowledge with students and the surrounding community. However, arguably the most important role of universities in the response to climate change is the ability to educate and engage students to become climate literate citizens of the future.

Sacramento is the nation’s leading center for development of sustainability policy, and as the California State University (CSU) serving Sacramento, Sacramento State is actively stepping into the role of disseminating sustainability initiatives adopted by the State to the students of Sacramento State and the region at large. In April 2016, the Sacramento State President signed Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment which committed the University to the task of establishing a path towards carbon neutrality as well as a target date for achieving campus-wide carbon neutrality.

The Commitment set in motion the process of developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to address emissions related to campus operations. Sacramento State began this process by conducting a GHG emissions inventory the following year, and subsequently created the Climate Action Plan, which is informed by State of California legislation, and outlines the strategies and goals Sacramento State will pursue as it works towards carbon neutrality. The Sacramento State CAP identifies strategies which target the sources of carbon pollution associated with campus facilities and operations as well as address potential strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from commutes and travel by students, faculty, and staff. The latter poses one of the more significant undertakings which the campus has set out to achieve as it mitigates carbon emissions due to the fact that it will involve persuading individuals to change their behaviors rather than campus operations.


Sacramento State’s Climate Action Plan establishes a mitigation strategy for the University to pursue reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with campus operations. The CSUS Climate Action Plan was developed in an effort to provide the campus with a framework for pursuing a carbon neutral campus by 2040, a goal informed by California legislation and executive orders. The Climate Action Plan includes a baseline study of the campus’ carbon footprint, an inventory of mitigation efforts already taken by the campus, a target date for achieving carbon neutrality, and interim target dates for meeting milestones leading up to 2040. CSUS has identified energy, waste, water, and transportation as having the greatest impacts on campus emissions. These areas constitute the primary focuses of the mitigation strategies outlined in the CAP.

Considering these areas of focus, the Plan recommends the following:

  • Evaluation of campus operations and facilities
  • Mechanisms and indicators for tracking progress
  • Actions to make carbon neutrality part of the curriculum and other education experiences for students, staff, and faculty
  • Actions to expand research in carbon neutrality and improve sustainability efforts on campus
Intermittent goals

Sacramento State will progress toward net zero carbon emissions by using the following interim goals to track progress leading up to 2040.

  • 2030 – reduce total GHG emission levels by 50%
  • 2035 – reduce total GHG emission levels by 80%
  • 2040 – reduce total GHG emissions to net zero
Strategy for Achieving Carbon Neutrality

Sacramento State conducted an initial inventory of GHG emissions during the 2016-2017 school year and identified the various sources of emissions associated with campus operations. The emission sources were categorized into three Scopes to help campus staff best determine how to prioritize action against the various sources of emissions.

  • Scope 1 – direct emissions produced through campus activities
  • Scope 2 – indirect emissions from purchased energy
  • Scope 3 – indirect emissions from student, faculty, and staff commuting and institution-funded air travel, solid waste, water, and wastewater

 The GHG inventory identified that a majority of campus emissions were a result of direct emissions through campus activities (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2). Within these Scopes, the inventory also allowed campus staff to classify energy, waste, water, and transportation as the areas with the main contribution to campus emissions. Using this information, campus staff identified the best strategies for achieving the carbon neutrality goals. These strategies in addition to efforts already undertaken by the campus constitute the campus’s strategy for achieving its goal of carbon neutrality.


Energy represents the most involved and detailed area of the CAP because the area has the most opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Sacramento State CAP identifies strategies including, but not limited to the following:

  • Existing building and infrastructure improvements such as implementing energy efficient technologies
  • Reduce excess energy usage
  • Pursue LEED Gold certification for major existing building remodels and renovations as well as for new construction
  • Pursue more small-efforts to increase energy use efficiency
  • Improve energy-use tracking methods
  • Transition to renewable energy by increasing off-site generation purchases and on-site generation
  • Purchase carbon offsets
  • Increase student engagement in efforts to reduce energy usage

The waste reduction and diversion strategies identified in the CAP encompass a broad range of steps which the campus plans to take in order to reduce its production of waste. The following are just some of the strategies being pursued by the campus to eliminate waste generation on campus.

  • Increased hydration strategies to promote reusable water bottle use
  • Establish a re-use store to sell used products and clothing to students
  • Consolidate all campus waste accounts for improved waste, recycling, and compost tracking
  • Increase awareness of Epicure Eats, a program that notifies students when events have excess food
  • Replace Blue Books with Green Books (books composed of recycled content rather than virgin materials)
  • Increase post-consumer waste composting options (such as Sac State’s BAC Yard facility)
  • Increase training for custodial staff regarding compost, recycling, and landfill materials as well as training for faculty and students on tri-bin utilization through the use of color coded bins for stream separation
  • Improve move-out day recycling
  • Increase accessibility to recycling options by taking steps such as eliminating stand-alone trash bin and increasing classroom bin recycling (specific emphasis on paper recycling)
  • Increase the use of paperless systems
  • Pursue strategies for reducing waste production related to dining operations such as sourcing more local food, composting, and promoting the use of reusable and eco-friendly containers and cups
  • Pursue strategies to decrease the production of waste and emissions related to procurement

Strategies outlined in the CAP pertaining to water focus on changes to be made in both existing buildings and infrastructure improvements, and new construction, such as:

  • Reduce water waste
  • Eliminate unnecessary water use such as in decorative fountains
  • Integrate more energy efficient and low-flow fixtures
  • Install water meters
  • Capture and utilizing rainwater
  • Incorporate Thermal Water Heating
  • Track water use

Campus staff have assigned themselves the ambitious yet necessary task of working to reduce carbon emissions related to transportation and commutes by facility, students, and staff. Sac State staff plans to accomplish the feat of encouraging individuals affiliated with Sac State to change their transportation behaviors by pursuing strategies categorized by some of the following:

  • Increase options and ease for alternative modes of transportation to campus
  • Expand infrastructure on and around campus for alternative modes of transportation
  • Disincentivize commuting by car
  • Transition campus vehicles to electric
  • Support expansion of housing options on and close to campus to reduce the number of students, faculty, and staff commuting from long distances
  • Implement no-idling policies for cars on campus
  • Limit the number of parking permits issued annually
  • Promote active transportation

As part of its multifaceted effort to address climate change through its Climate Action Plan, Sac State is prioritizing the integration of climate knowledge and climate change mitigation strategies into academia and research. This effort will involve engaging with the entire Sac state community to encourage collaboration between students, professors, scientists, administrators, researchers, staff, and experts. Through collaboration, Sac State will cultivate the pursuit of new policies, technology, and best practices to achieve campus carbon neutrality as well as to advance teaching and research in climate change and sustainability.

Tracking Progress

Sacramento State staff will utilize two reporting systems to keep apprised of emission reductions while progressing toward interim goals and eventual carbon neutrality. First, the Annual GHG emissions inventory will continue to be recorded in order to provide an indicator of regular progress toward carbon neutrality. The campus will also continue to participate in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System  (STARS) to track emission reduction in various areas.


CSUS staff recognize that in order to be successful in the pursuit of carbon neutrality, the CAP will require future modifications in order to address unforeseen advances in technology and various elements of change affecting the physical campus. Additionally, the CAP will continue annual monitoring and reporting of all campus greenhouse emissions.


Campus staff have identified that the actions laid out by the Climate Action Plan will be funded using a number of existing internal funding sources and external opportunities, such as grants.