Students Actively Engage in University Sustainability Initiatives

Green approaches to waste management, energy and transportation are becoming an integral part of SDSU's identity.

By Leslie L.J. Reilly

Sustainability Students

From left to right: Charlotte Roberts, Courtney Ransom, Stuart Stielau

San Diego State University students studying sustainability are actively engaged in internships and student organizations that bring environmentally sustainable solutions to the forefront, in the areas of zero-waste, energy, water, green buildings, social responsibility, food, housing, and transportation.

The extraordinary work of three passionate CAL students is highlighted here. Each student focuses on a different initiative, yet all seek the end goal of solving global challenges and making an impact through activism.

ZERO-WASTE | Charlotte Roberts

Charlotte Roberts learned, in anthropology professor Matthew Lauer’s sustainability and culture class, about the massive amount of waste coming out of developing countries who subscribe to the disposable consumption linear economy of take-make-waste. It piqued her interest in waste and its effect on society.

“I want to either help with the waste that is being created by reducing it at the creation point or help in dealing with waste that has already been externalized to developing countries,” Roberts said.

As a zero-waste intern for SDSU Facilities Services, Roberts worked on a team developing data dashboards that track energy, water, and waste usage on campus, among other projects.

Roberts is part of the Associated Students Green Love organization’s Zero-Waste Committee, whose goal is to move SDSU to TRUE Zero-Waste Certification, a specialized solid waste certification associated with the Green Business Certification, Inc. A TRUE project's goal is to divert all solid waste from the landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy), and the environment.

Her committee is currently focused on a review and action plan to turn the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union into a zero-waste facility. 

“My overarching plan is that I want to intervene in a way that I’m most effective in the climate crisis,” Roberts said. “It’s not just about saving the Earth, it’s protecting human beings and all the other species that are threatened by the changing climate.”

ENVIRONMENT | Courtney Ransom

Courtney Ransom’s journey to sustainability and environmental activism began as a child. She and her family enjoyed vacations in the great outdoors and often camped in tents or cabins adjacent to swimming holes. As she grew older, she added a vegan lifestyle to her love of the environment. She started a vegan blog and through it she learned even more about sustainable living and the environment.

While studying at community college, she had a journalism professor who was working on his second master’s degree in environmental studies at SDSU. “He talked up the professors and the sustainability program so much,” Ransom said, “and even told me about Green Love — a place for earth-lovers and change-makers.”

When she transferred to SDSU, she knew she was passionate about social and environmental issues, and that the sustainability major at SDSU offered her precisely what she needed.

“I’m so lucky that SDSU’s sustainability major is interdisciplinary. I got to take classes in many  different departments. In all of my classes — from geography to political science — professors gave examples of bottom-up movements turning into wide and sweeping change once adopted into government programs and policy,” Ransom said.

Ransom previously served as commissioner of the Green Love at SDSU. This year, Associated Students completed its goal of certifying all of its buildings as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold or better.

“We’re all fighting for the same thing and we know we have the power to make change and help fix it,” Ransom concluded.

COMMUTING | Stuart Stielau

Stuart Stielau was in the military for eight years prior to enrolling in SDSU’s sustainability program. He has always been passionate about sustainability — from the transportation and technological aspect.

When Stielau lived in Italy he noticed  European transportation was quick, punctual, and reliable. “It sparked my interest,” he said. “My dream is to get San Diego to that caliber of service where everyone takes public transportation.”

As an intern at both SDSU’s Office of Sustainability and the regional San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) planning agency, he is most interested in renewable energies and the robust infrastructure in transportation with the goal of meeting sustainable standards.

He is immersed in sustainability, and finds the courses at SDSU are completely aligned with his own views and goals. “I like the foundations I have learned coupled with learning about how ethics and politics mesh with sustainability,” Stielau said.

Within SDSU’s Office of Sustainability, Stielau was brought on as an intern to tackle planning for the universal transit pass. It is a proposed unlimited pass for the trolley, buses, and other modes of transportation.

To move the idea forward and work on logistics, Stielau said, “We’ve met with administrators from San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) to share the idea and they are on board.”

Over the last year Stielau’s team has done research, feasibility studies, student interviews, and held meetings with MTS and SDSU administrators. The results have been positive.

“We have a fantastic trolley station here on campus that should be an epicenter for transportation,” Stielau said.

“My goal is to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions and overall carbon footprint,” Stielau said. “These are exciting times.”


This story originally appeared on SDSU NewsCenter.