Michael Catanzaro arrives at Aromas on an electric-powered bicycle that he rode from his USD office. Wearing a white polo shirt with the USD “Be Blue, Go Green” logo and with a reusable water bottle in one hand, Catanzaro, USD’s director of sustainability and a double alumnus (‘01, ‘07), definitely looks the part. But the double USD alumnus’ focus is on a plan, an ambitious venture with many pathways, but all roads lead to the same destination — for USD to be one of the nation’s most sustainable campuses.
USD was recently named Outstanding Sustainable Organization by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, an award in which USD was picked ahead of more than 40 organizations, including the San Diego Airport Authority, the County of San Diego, the Green Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Coast Keepers.
“Winning this award is a testament to how far we’ve come in a very short amount of time,” Catanzaro said. “It surprised me. It was an honor to be nominated, but I didn’t expect to win. To get this award means a lot because San Diego has done some amazing stuff. We’re a top 5 city and there’s a green network in place here.”
A partnership with San Diego Gas and Electric, which started in 2010, has given Catanzaro the ability to get USD students involved in community service and classroom projects, work with SDG&E to use USD as a testing ground for energy-efficiency programs. Catanzaro said he was recently asked to lead an initiative among San Diego’s education institutions — involving major universities and community colleges — to work on an energy-saving regional program.
“We certainly see the opportunity in powerful partnerships,” Catanzaro said. “Everything we’re doing right now is through partnerships and it’s being done in a big way.”
USD and AMSOLAR entered an agreement that made the university home to the largest rooftop solar installation in the nation with a 1.23-megawatt system atop 13 campus buildings. On April 20, 2011, USD opened the nation’s first electronic waste recycling center on a university campus. One year later, the center is responsible for diverting 125,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills. USD is one of only 15 groups nationwide to receive National Science Foundation funding to develop climate change education strategies. The Student Life Pavilion, a hub for student life, achieved LEED gold certification after its first full year of operation.
“When you look at the benchmarks and the metrics, we’re almost doing as much as we can each year,” Catanzaro said. “What makes us sustainable is different than what makes Harvard sustainable or the University of Wisconsin. There are different priorities by region, but our portfolio is really good. There are some pieces that are so excellent.”
The Dalai Lama’s April 18 visit to USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion was an example of growing awareness of the campus’ commitment to sustainability. The Office of Sustainability, which designated April as Earth Month, declared the Dalai Lama’s visit as a “zero-waste” event. Attendees were encouraged to use alternative transportation to arrive on campus and both requests were successful: A partnership with Waste Management enabled USD to divert all food waste to Anaheim to be processed, composted and turned into energy. Dry waste, namely recyclables, was diverted from the landfill and recycled properly. Catanzaro said more than 275 vehicles carpooled to campus on April 18, a single-day record for carpooling on campus.
USD’s designation as an AshokaU Changemaker Campus last fall is another opportunity. Catanzaro wants to increase the E-Waste Center’s visibility and value. He sought out USD Changemaker Hub Committee co-chair and Business Professor Patricia Marquez and students in her Global Entrepreneurship for Social Change course to be consultants for E-Waste Center marketing ideas.
“The E-Waste Center, I’d argue, is one of the purest forms of entrepreneurism,” Catanzaro said. “It provides a benefit to the community; any revenues from it go toward student scholarships; it keeps toxins and other stuff out of landfills; and it gives people a solution now for this yet-unsolved problem.”
Sustainability is something that many on campus do take seriously. Catanzaro praised several on-campus departments who’ve implemented it into their strategic plan.
“This is not just a Facilities Management thing,” he said, noting where his office is located. “There’s a grassroots movement here and every department does a little bit to help.”
• The School of Leadership and Education Sciences has a sustainability committee;
• Curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business Administration (MBA, International Business, Real Estate and more) and Engineering Programs educates on sustainability practices and promote research opportunities;
• There’s a sustainability-based Living-Learning Community for new students through USD Residential Life, which also serves as a place to implement recycling programs, encourage community service projects such as gardening, and host field trips to local farmers’ markets to educate about healthy, sustainable food choices;
• Campus departments and student organizations have hosted e-waste collection drives;
• USD’s Student Health Center participates as a “take-back location” in a Teleosis Institute-developed Green Pharmacy Program, a partnership with pharmacies, health professionals, public and private organizations to provide safe disposal for unwanted medicines;
• Outdoor Adventures, in UC 129, offers trips with sustainability awareness/practice by participants and staff members improve the campus community’s awareness of sustainability through lectures, events and discussions;
• The Center for Awareness, Service and Action (CASA) runs an Intersession immersion trip to Duncans, Jamaica that Catanzaro has attended for the last few years: “It’s an eco-village there because of the limited resources,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to spend time and learn from them because the conversations there are different than here.”
USD’s vast sustainability efforts keep Catanzaro busy. Furthermore, he’s a local board member for the American Lung Association, a position he took to honor his late sister who suffered from asthma and to increase awareness of San Diego’s still-poor air quality. Catanzaro is reliable, visible and well-informed. He’s someone to follow because he’s working on a plan.
“I don’t think people quite understand where we’re at; we’re not too far from being one of the most sustainable campuses in the country,” he said. “We really do have an opportunity to get there quickly.”
— Ryan T. Blystone