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Sacramento State hosts global delegates to share information about the University’s sustainability efforts

Sac State Director of Energy and Sustainability Ryan Todd, left, shovels mulch in the University's BAC Yard, where campus green and food waste is turned into compost. The site was one of several a group of international delegates toured during a visit to campus to learn more about the University's sustainability efforts. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Sacramento State is strengthening global ties to reduce carbon emissions and make communities around the world more sustainable. 

Twice in the last year, Sac State Sustainability has hosted foreign delegates visiting campus to learn more about the University’s work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Looking at these issues on a global scale is a more realistic and more responsible approach because climate change is happening on a global scale,” said Ryan Todd, Sac State director of Energy and Sustainability. 

“There’s a lot of benefit to communicating with people around the world about how we’re approaching these issues as well as learning how they’re approaching them.” 

The delegates visited as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a U.S. Department of State exchange program for international civic leaders and professionals that has been around since 1940. Personnel at U.S. embassies worldwide select delegates for the program who have demonstrated leadership on issues important to American foreign policy.

In the capital region, IVLP is implemented by Global Ties Sacramento, a division of the World Trade Center Northern California and one of 85 nonprofit organizations nationwide that operate the program. 

“Our broader mission is to improve diplomatic relations through person-to-person diplomacy by bringing international visitors here to meet Americans and understand American culture,” said Global Ties Sacramento Director of Operations Tessa Carter. 

“It’s through this connection, we hope to break down stereotypes and improve cooperation and show that we are all working towards similar goals, even though we might be doing it in different ways.” 

Sacramento has hosted delegates interested in topics such as agricultural technologies, human trafficking, entrepreneurship, and education, said Carter. But many IVLP groups visit California to focus specifically on sustainability and climate change. 

“California is a leader in these areas,” she said. “We know there are a lot of great things happening in sustainability at Sac State.

“The University has become one of our frequently suggested resources because visitors have such a positive experience. They love hearing about renewable energy and sustainable waste management, as well as visiting the garden and the composting area.” 

“Looking at these issues on a global scale is a more realistic and more responsible approach because climate change is happening on a global scale. There’s a lot of benefit to communicating with people around the world about how we’re approaching these issues as well as learning how they’re approaching them.” -- Ryan Todd, Sac State director of Energy and Sustainability

Last winter, delegates met with the Sac State Sustainability team for the first time to learn about renewable energy, an area in which the University has made significant strides. The campus recently installed 3,979 solar panels in a parking lot, with another 2,886 panels to be installed this summer.

Upon completion, about 20% of Sac State’s power will come from renewable energy, Todd said. That number could increase to as much as 30% during the hot summer months, depending on the weather. 

Another group – which included business and civic leaders from Romania, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Guatemala, the Philippines and more – visited Sac State in May to learn about creating sustainable communities. 

“Their theme was how to integrate sustainable practices within their communities,” Todd said. “Everyone around the world is trying to figure out how to do these things. We’re all in the same boat, literally. 

“It shows how universal these issues are, and how global the impacts are ultimately.” 

Many of the delegates asked questions about Sac State’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become a carbon neutral campus by 2040.

They were particularly interested in visiting the CapRadio garden and the Bioconversion and Agricultural Collaborative Yard, also known as the BAC Yard, where campus green and food waste is turned into compost. 

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Todd said. “We have a 2040 carbon neutrality goal with no clear path how to get there. We have a dashboard where we track all of our environmental data, and as more and better data becomes available, we can leverage it to make decisions that make sense.” 

Universities are ideal places to facilitate discussion about sustainability and climate change, said CSU Chief of Energy, Sustainability and Transportation Lindsey Rowell, because they not only are hubs of academic expertise but also offer a wide array of services — including roads, fitness, security, dining, and housing — that make campuses like Sac State small cities. 

“Universities are natural collaborators because people are open to education and sharing what they learn,” said Rowell, who attended both Global Ties meetings. “Universities do not have a political bent, so we’re very candid. … We talked about the very real challenges we face.” 

Sac State’s work with Global Ties and the IVLP is another example of its work to engage and improve the surrounding community. Last year, the University became the only CSU campus to join the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a global alliance of nearly 2,000 experts on ending poverty and protecting the planet. 

“Now is not the time to be preoccupied with boundaries and fence lines,” Rowell said. “It is necessary for us, the world, to be working together on these strategies because we cannot do this work in a vacuum, and you can’t make decisions related to sustainability and climate safety without impacting other parts of the world. 

“Universities make a great conduit by which those conversations can happen. There’s a brilliant nexus between the fight against the climate crisis and the global education of our students."

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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