Footprints and handprints

Since we are early in the year, I thought it might be interesting to share a few “fast facts” about sustainability at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). In the 2016 Student Experience Survey, 63 percent of students indicated sustainability as an “important” or “very important” factor in their decision to attend CSUMB.

In 2018, CSUMB contributed 14,429 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. This is the equivalent of about 191 tanker trucks of gasoline. The vast majority of these emissions are from commuting, other sources include purchased electricity and natural gas.

In 2017-18, campus used about 338 acre feet (or 110,137,784 gallons) of water. This is the equivalent of 167 olympic-sized swimming pools.

Also in 2017-18, for the first time since campus has recorded its waste collection and diversion, the percentage of materials going to landfill has decreased, while the amount of materials being recycled has increased. Compost has also been introduced at the Student Center and the library. However, we still sent over 60 percent of waste materials to the landfill and produced 1,913 tons of waste total.

These numbers reflect an eco-footprint – many people may have heard this term in reference to carbon footprints or water footprints. These tools allows people to think about and often quantify their individual impact, just as we have done in collecting the numbers shared above. However, there is another way to think about our impacts. A “handprint” allows us to consider what we are doing to help and how we we are giving back.

Every single person who lives, works and visits campus has a role to play in ensuring our collective impact on the Earth is minimized. Here are some suggestions to get you started, more information on these can be found at

  • If you work here, (as a student, faculty member or staff) consider participating in the Green Office Certification Program. Ask your supervisor or fellow team members if they are interested.
  • Be an ally for the Earth. When you are in a meeting or a classroom getting started on a project or effort, think about the impact your decision will have on waste generation, transportation, energy and water use. Speak up – ask others in the room what can be done to reduce potential negative impacts (do materials need to be printed, is SWAG or give-aways absolutely critical, can we provide meatless food selections, etc.)
  • Become a Zero Waste Ambassador: working with the campus waste-hauler, Greenwaste, to help educate and support proper waste diversion on campus.

Finally, perhaps the most fun action you can take is to just get out into nature more. Explore the tidepools, take a trip with Outdoor Recreation to Pinnacles or Yosemite, go for a hike in Fort Ord, sit under a tree and watch a bird. Get to know and appreciate your natural environment, building that connection makes it easier to care about your footprint and your handprint.

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