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Sustainability summits aims to make campus greener

The Fresno State Sustainability Project will hold its inaugural Sustainability Summit today on campus in the Viticulture and Enology conference room.

The event, the first step taken in forming an on-campus sustainability institute, is spearheaded by the Fresno State Sustainability Project, a coalition of the applied behavioral science and earth and environmental science departments. The group aims to change practices and methods on campus to help with environmental efficiency and make a more green-wise campus.

“We focused on coordinating and improving practices in education, research and activity at Fresno State. We found the campus had so much going on related to sustainability, yet most members of the university did not know about this, and there was little coordination,” said Dr. Criss Wilhite, professor and founder of the Applied Behavior Analysis Programs on campus and one of the creators and advisers of the Sustainability Project.

While the project is still relatively new, Wilhite said the support from students and faculty has been positive.

“Within a year, we had formed relations with plant operations, various professors, and administrators on campus and a wonderful group of students,” Wilhite said.

The project already has implemented a water-wise garden with plants that utilize less water, such as local manzanita and Palo Verde trees. Additionally, it held a four-day-long Earth Day celebration in April.

“Our goal is to educate, engage and inspire,” said Kassandra Hishida, an environmental science major and student ambassador for the project.

The summit is a daylong event, which will feature speakers of various professions and perspectives on sustainable activities and initiatives that can change the course of aspects of climate change here on campus and the community. After the speakers, the participants of the summit will go into “break-out” sessions, which are groups that can take the ideas heard from the speakers and put together and develop projects.

“We want participants to be aware of existing projects, to be part of the discussion as we develop new projects and to be inspired to take action and help us improve our campus,” Hishida said.

An expert panel Q&A will follow, featuring administrators and faculty from campus from various fields of study.

Wilhite said groups like the Sustainability Project and this event is important for the campus and students because it allows them to see the importance of organizing and educating peers.

“This experience is invaluable,” Wilhite said. “They will be able to adapt more rapidly to demands for the future, not only in their jobs but in society, as well. We believe the university, the region and society at large will benefit.