CSU campuses are essentially small cities that provide the perfect “living lab” for future engineers, water resource professionals, urban planners and environmentalists. When academic programs collaborate with campus facilities, faculty and students engage in hands-on research that makes campuses more sustainable—and students go into the workforce prepared to solve real-world problems.

This type of collaboration has been increasingly popular as universities across the nation strive to be more sustainable. The CSU is at the forefront of the movement as the first university system with a comprehensive program: Campus as a Living Lab (CALL).

CALL provides funds of up to $12,000 for each campus to support the redesign of an existing course that ties in sustainability and campus facilities. The CSU Office of the Chancellor divisions of Business and Finance, Academic Affairs, and the Systemwide Academic Senate have joined together to fund the program for a second year.

This year, 21 teams from 19 CSUs are received grants. They met during the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference at San Francisco State July 23 to discuss their projects and related course redesign, student learning outcomes and academic technology.

The projects support water conservation, energy and waste reduction, and enhanced partnerships with local utilities around campus.

“Thanks to support from the CSU Chancellor’s Office, CSU East Bay has the opportunity to assess how food waste is handled on campus and engage the creativity of students to find solutions to improve this system,” said Jillian Buckholz, CSU East Bay’s director of sustainability.

CSU East Bay’s CALL project aims to restore the campus’ historical, drought-tolerant native oak woodlands, which could potentially decrease waste management costs and erosion, and improve air quality. The project will create a course, which will draw on undergraduates in programs including environmental science, biology and recreation to assess ecological restoration of the campus through waste-derived compost.

Sonoma State was one of the campuses to be awarded two CALL grants this year. One of them aims to gather utility and water usage statistics from campus residence halls and make it available to students via a mobile app. The idea is that if students are able to closely monitor their energy use, they will use less—translating into cost savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

What is most valuable, however, is that students go on as knowledgeable consumers and community actors for sustainability, says Sonoma State’s Director of Sustainability Paul Draper.

“On our campus, so much is going on to address sustainability through curricular and co-curricular education as well facilities, food and waste management. These two CALL grants are tremendous motivators for connecting diverse parts of Sonoma State to achieve common sustainability goals.”

More information on the CALL program is available here.