Energy & Sustainability


Sustainability touches all aspects of the California State University. To learn more about the CSU’s progress toward integrating sustainability across all facets of our 23-campus system, visit the Sustainability section of Calstate.edu.

Here are some of the ways the CSU demonstrates its commitment to sustainable practices in all we do:

  • The Campus as a Living Lab program began as a collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs and Capital Planning, Design and Construction to use the physical plant of the university as a way for students to work on and solve real-world environmental challenges.
  • To improve the management of campus energy information, the CSU has implemented a systemwide Energy Information System (EIS)​ that centralizes and modernizes the process of reporting campus monthly utility use and costs. The EIS automates most energy bill collection and meter reading and includes error detection to improve accuracy. It also provides a dashboard of campus utility usage that allows students and the public to understand how their campus uses energy

Tracking of utility use is critical for both the campuses' and the Chancellor's Office's understanding of how energy and other resources are used. The EIS will help inform centralized procurement decisions for electricity and natural gas and will increase campus administrative effectiveness by automating utility data collection and simplifying reporting. Campuses are encouraged to install building-level metering to improve operational data on facility performance.


Campus Climate Action Plans

Climate action plans are essential tools for assessing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and developing a plan to achieve emission reduction targets. Eleven CSU campuses have published a campus-level climate action plan, with most setting a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by effectively reducing their net GHG emissions to zero.

Campus carbon-neutrality target dates range from 2020 to 2050. Four additional campuses are expected to complete their climate action plans in 2019. Unlike the CSU’s systemwide GHG emission reduction goals, these commitments include other indirect emissions generally categorized as Scope 3.

Campuses with carbon-neutrality goals have committed to reducing emissions from these Scope 3 indirect sources, such as emissions from employee and student commutes, in addition to reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions in accordance with systemwide policy.

Climate Action Planning in the CSU

The responsibility for strategic and sustainable campus planning and operations is a commitment the CSU continues to drive as a leader in higher education. The commitment of the CSU’s signatory campuses​ to reducing GHG are publicly and transparently tracked through Second Nature, which reports on higher education’s commitments to accelerating climate action.

Assembly Bill 262 - Buy Green California Act, requires California State University include Green building materials in contract documents. These materials will be listed in project specifications and describe facility-specific global warming potential for any eligible materials and not exceed the maximum global warming potential for that material. Additionally, CSU will report Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for materials used on construction projects to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EPD categories that will be reported on will be Flat Glass, Hot Rolled Sections, Hollow Structural Sections, Plate, Carbon Steel Rebar and Mineral Wool. CSU and MetaBim have built a repository for entry of these materials. Please see the AB262 Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) Database training video​ and the AB262 Step-by-Step Guide​ for data entry instructions.

Here are some answers to common questions about the Buy Clean California Act, which is part of climate action planning:​​

Q: What is the Buy Clean California Act?

A: The legislation was introduced as Assembly Bill (AB) 262 and signed into law on October 15, 2017. It targets the embedded carbon emissions of certain construction materials used in public works projects. AB 262 requires that these materials have a global warming potential that falls below a limit set by the Department of General Services.

Q: Which construction materials are affected?

A: Eligible materials include structural steel (hot-rolled sections, hollow structural sections and plate), carbon steel rebar, flat glass, and mineral wool board insulation.

Q: Which state agencies must comply with the law?

A: The awarding authorities include:

  • Trustees of the California State University
  • Regents of the University of California
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Water Resources
  • Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Military Department
  • Department of General Services
  • State agencies granted authority to work on public works projects under Management Memo 18-01

Q: What does this mean for contractors?

A: If any of the identified construction materials are used in a public works project for the agencies listed, a facility-specific Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)shall be provided by a successful bidder for a contract to the applicable state agency. These EPDs must be developed in compliance with ISO 14025.

Q: What is an EPD and how do I obtain one?

A: An EPD, or Environmental Product Declaration, is an independently verified and registered document that communicates information about the life cycle environmental impact of products. The raw material producer conducts a product life cycle assessment and works with a program operator to verify and publish an EPD.

An EPD needs to follow the guidelines of ISO 14025 (Type III Environmental Declarations – Principles and Procedures) and the applicable Product Category Rule (PCR). A PCR is a set of rules, requirements and guidelines for a product group.

Q: Where can I find out more about life cycle assessments, product category rules and program operators?

A: This information can be found at the Program Operator Consortium site.

Q: Where can I find the actual statute language?

A: The legislation can be found under Public Contract Code § 3500-3505 on the California Legislature site.

Q: What is the effective date of the Buy Clean California Act?

A: On January 1, 2019 awarding authorities began requesting that each successful bidder for a contract submit a facility-specific EPD for all eligible materials. On or after July 1, 2021, only eligible materials compliant with the Global Warming Potential (GWP) limit will be acceptable for use on public works projects.

Q: Where can I find more information about the Buy Clean California Act?

A: Information, implementation status and contact information can be found at the State of California’s Department of General Services site for the Buy Clean California Act.

CSU Energy and Sustainability Companion Report

This report is organized around four key metrics:

  • Energy use intensity (BTU/GSF/year)
  • Utility cost (by gross square foot)
  • Gross institutional expenditure
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

These factors are influenced by campus location and climate, type of utility service, hours of operation, occupancy loads, maintenance practice and energy efficiency efforts. Since many of these factors fall outside a campus's control, this data is best used to compare an individual campus's performance over time. Any comparisons between campuses should consider these factors.


Energy-Efficiency Partnerships

The California State University partnered with the University of California and Southern California Edison on a Clean Energy Optimization Pilot, a first-of-its-kind greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program.

The partnership is designed to reduce GHG emissions and save money for both the CSU and UC systems. The four-year, $20 million pilot will provide financial incentives for the UC and CSU systems to identify and implement sustainable actions they can take to reduce their GHG emissions to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every campus, the universities will be provided with a framework of options that will enable them to meet specific goals.

Two CSU campuses were selected to participate in this pilot, CSU Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Pomona. This approach will produce a variety of solutions that can be studied to understand the effectiveness for possible expansion of the program in the future.

The CSU has made significant progress toward meeting its Sustainability Policy goals of improving energy efficiency. Energy efficiency remains the lowest-cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to facilitate these projects the CSU has partnered with the UC and the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in the UC/C​SU/Utility Energy Efficiency Partnership.Through the partnership, local electric and natural gas utilities provide incentive funding to complete campus energy-efficiency projects.

Since 2004, the CSU has leveraged more than $30 million in incentive funding through the partnership to complete over $128 million worth of energy efficiency projects. These projects have included LED lighting upgrades, building retro-commissioning, installation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and building envelope improvements. As a result of these energy conservation efforts and more efficient new buildings, the CSU has reduced systemwide energy use intensity by 11 percent since 2005-06.

Energy Procurement

The CSU has a comprehensive portfolio of energy procurement programs to source clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity and natural gas:

  • The Energy Contracts Oversight Board is comprised of campus subject matter experts and senior management to advise and guide supply side energy contracts, programs and strategy.
  • Direct access electricity and natural gas provide the CSU with cost-effective contracting options for electricity and natural gas delivered by local utilities.
  • The Solar and Battery Master Enabling Agreements provide a streamlined set of contracting templates to cost effectively increase the CSU’s distributed clean energy resources with the long-term goal of improving energy resilience through stand-by power supply and micro-grids.

External Green Building Rating Systems

Current CSU policy requires all new construction and major renovations to be capable of achieving a Silver level of certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The LEED rating system assesses buildings for sustainability criteria across many areas, including location and transportation, energy and water efficiency, materials, and indoor environmental quality.

While the current systemwide policy does not require projects to pursue LEED certification, several campuses do have such a requirement. Currently, seven CSU campuses require LEED certification for projects, five at the Silver level and two at the higher Gold level.

As the trend in higher education continues towards a more diverse menu of green building certifications, the CSU sees value in tracking tracks these campus decisions through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ‘s(AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)in the operations category credits regarding building design, construction, facilities operations, and campus energy consumption.

The CSU supports and is a major participant in STARS. Most campuses have experienced the benefits of membership with the AASHE and reporting campus sustainability benchmarking data through STARS, the online reporting tool.

This reporting methodology provides the university a transparent, publicly accessible and self-reported framework crossing all sectors of higher education. Observed benefits include:

  • International recognition for the CSU’s sustainability efforts
  • Generation of new ideas and solutions based on shared-model practices from peer institutions
  • Engagement among CSU communities
  • Creation of a benchmarking process for continuous improvement
  • Assistance to the campuses in their strategic planning and budgeting
  • Integration of sustainability into academic curricula

Sustainability Grants & Incentives

The CSU Sustainability Grants & Incentives Resource is intended to provide campuses with access to outside funding and incentive opportunities to support capital projects that encourage the CSU's commitment to sustainability. This resource should be accessed during the early and strategic planning stage of a capital project to help determine the project's financial feasibility. Campuses are encouraged to regularly check this database as it is updated on a continual basis.


The database is an inventory of a​ctive and ongoing programs organized around a variety of sustainability topics:

  • Academic Research
  • Agriculture
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Food
  • Green Space & Green Infrastructure
  • Planning & Resilience
  • Transportation & Air Quality
  • Water
  • Waste Reduction