Green Gathering 2016: Group Successes Include Climate Action Plan

Michael Catanzaro opened his remarks at last week’s USD Office of Sustainability Green Gathering — the 2016 edition of its year-in-review event — by thanking staff members, student employees and interns for their hard work.

“It’s really a group effort and our successes this year are a reflection of that,” said Catanzaro, a double USD alumnus and USD’s director of sustainability. 

He noted the solid impact of USD’s Electronic Recycling Center at the far west end of campus, obtaining additional office sustainability certifications across campus, and being part of a San Diego Climate Collaborative group that has added more local government support and received a $689,000 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant to study sea level rise and its impact. 

Catanzaro said more than 20 projects were undertaken by his office throughout the year, including Earth Month programming and a unique sustainability partnership enabling USD students, staff and faculty to work with the University of Minnesota and Major League Baseball at the 2016 All-Star Game and its other festivities at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park. As part of the MLB All-Star Green Team, the group separated recyclable concession containers used by fans and diverted them from trash and local landfills. 

USD Develops Climate Action Plan 

But the crown jewel of 2016 group accomplishments for the Office of Sustainability has been a plan that, after a nearly year-long process, earned the approval of the USD Board of Trustees' Executive Council. 

“We convened the USD Sustainability Task Force in January and developed a comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CAP) for the university,” Catanzaro said. “We set targets for reductions — thanks to Scott Anders and his EPIC (School of Law's Energy Policy Initiatives Center) for their help — and USD now has a formally adopted Climate Action Plan which will take a look at the next 15-20 years and look at our footprint. We’re really taking our commitment to the environment seriously. If you’ve been keeping up with (USD) President (James) Harris’ Envisioning 2024 strategic planning, one of the pathways is Care for Creation.” the latter aspect embraces Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si,” calling on the world to take action against climate change. 

The CAP is a framework to reduce USD’s greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The CAP sets out a general methodology for establishing short-, medium-, and long-term strategic goals and feedback mechanisms that provide performance data and specific recommendations to reduce the environmental impact of the university. The CAP outlines operational changes necessary to meet or exceed the City of San Diego’s CAP guidelines. 

Using 2010 as a baseline, the minimum goal is to reduce the university's emissions and environmental footprint by 15 percent by 2020; 40 percent by 2030; and 50 percent by 2035. The CAP outlines how the university will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in six major categories: energy, commuting, air travel, zero waste, fleet and water.

Following the CAP's Nov. 1 approval, the next step is developing an implementation plan.

“Sustainability,” Catanzaro stated, “is a really embedded initiative at USD; moving forward we’re really going to have more opportunities to do great work.”

— Ryan T. Blystone