How green is our valley

By Justin Gerdes and Marika Krause

This spring Santa Clara University was honored through one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s oldest and most prestigious environmental recognition programs: the Acterra Award for Sustainability. Individual initiatives earned a nod—such as Experiential Learning for Social Justice, the Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program, a half-acre organic campus garden, and the Frugal Innovation Lab. More important still is a culture of sustainability ingrained in the University’s Jesuit mission.

The accolade is considered a heavyweight among award programs due to its rigorous application and judging process. Santa Clara was selected out of a distinguished group of finalists including Google and SunPower Corporation.
 

Let’s get creative

Recognition for achievement is good. Amid historic drought, though, making headway with sustainable practices becomes even more important. In recent years, by investing in new water-efficient fixtures, switching to recycled water where possible, and adding drought-tolerant plants, SCU has harvested the low-hanging fruit. “We’re at the point where we’ve done all the easy stuff. Now we need to be creative,” says Lindsey Kalkbrenner ’04, MBA ’09, director of the Center for Sustainability. “Everything that can be converted to recycled water has been.”

While the use of recycled water beyond landscaping would yield savings, current law requires the installation of a separate pipe to carry recycled water used to flush toilets. If included in the planning for a new building from the start, the process is not onerous. That was done for the Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library. Retrofitting existing buildings to use recycled water is much more expensive.

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