SF State creates new ‘green’ committee
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Students, faculty, staff and administrators will chair a committee together this semester that aims to reduce SF State’s greenhouse gas emissions and achieve environmental sustainability.

Provost John Gemello and Leroy Morishita, vice president and chief financial officer, will co-chair the 14-person committee.

University authorities get to appoint 11 of the other members. Associated Students and the Student Center Governing Board will each select a student representative. The Academic Senate will select four faculty members, while President Robert A. Corrigan will appoint two staff and three others, according to a document listing the committee’s charge. Not all members have been selected at this point, and the committee’s first meeting date has not yet been determined. However, those involved said it will meet this semester.

Forming such a committee appears to satisfy the first requirement of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, to which Corrigan signed SF State in September 2007. A document outlining the commitment to minimize greenhouse gas emissions requires signatories to “create institutional structures to guide development and implementation” within two months of signing.

Though SF State did not meet this requirement on time, officials did complete the following requirement, a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, by last September.

“The sooner we get going, the better,” said Carlos Davidson, director and associate professor of environmental studies. The Academic Senate appointed Davidson to the committee Tuesday, Nov. 4. It will be better to meet at least once this semester and ponder future plans over the winter break than to wait until January to begin, he said.

Creating an all-university sustainability committee is important progress toward solving environmental issues at SF State, Davidson said. Many other environmentally progressive universities have similar committees with top administrators actively participating, he said.

With “the No. 2 and 3 people on campus (Morishita and Gemello)” serving as co-chairs, “this committee sends a message: the campus is taking a strong commitment to sustainability,” Davidson said. “When people at the top say this is a priority, it helps all [members] below them get involved in sustainability issues.”

While SF State’s students, faculty and staff have worked recently on several successful environmental projects without a committee—the university hosted a climate change teach-in, a statewide student sustainability conference, two ‘Bike to School Days’ and other events this year—having one will increase coordination and representation, Davidson said.

“There’s a lot of sustainability stuff happening, but nobody really knows what other people are doing,” Davidson said. A committee that includes students, faculty, staff and administrators will allow interested parties to set priorities and avoid redundant efforts, he said.

It also empowers SF State’s environmentally conscious to accomplish projects too large or onerous for individuals or small groups. One of the committee’s first goals will be to conduct a “comprehensive environmental audit to see where we are on a whole range of sustainability issues,” Davidson said. Another goal will be to complete a climate action plan, the Climate Commitment’s next requirement, based on the audit and findings from the greenhouse gas inventory, he said.

“It’s very creative what the possibilities are,” said Connie Ulasewicz, an assistant professor with consumer and family studies and another Academic Senate appointee. Ulasewicz teaches a product development class at SF State in which students will seek environmentally sustainable production. She contributed to the Student Fashion Association’s sustainable fashion show last year and co-authored a book entitled “Sustainable Fashion: Why Now?”

Ulasewicz said, “Our reason for being here is educating the next generation. I’d like to have the university be clear on what their charge is for all of us here,” which is why she applied to sit on the committee. Striving for environmental sustainability at SF State means “updating and changing how we view ourselves and our interaction with the planet. It’s thinking about waste, and we haven’t had to do that before. And I think it will bring us all closer together,” she said.

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