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SRJC's History of Sustainability

At SRJC we understand that “green” is a useful shorthand term for many sustainability initiatives the College has undertaken for more than 40 years to improve and protect our community, region, and world. But “sustainability” at SRJC is more than environmental stewardship, since all our green actions have social, economic, and environmental consequences.

SRJC is fortunate to have so many students, staff, faculty, and graduates who care about Sonoma County and the world we inhabit together. For some of us, environmental issues are the heart of our identity and work. For others, environmental commitments are tangential to other plans and purposes. But in every case, our combined green actions expand the possibilities for environmental sustainability.

SRJC’s collection of green efforts are proof of how the efforts of many people can make our College and community more sustainable, and ultimately, restore and better protect our world.

The Sustainable SRJC Web site offers some history about how the College has applied various strategies to become increasingly environmentally responsible over the years. As you explore these activities, you will see how SRJC is making impactful decisions that will not only ensure our well being, but the health of future generations who attend SRJC and live in the communities the College serves. This is what our Sustainable SRJC history is all about, reducing our ecological imprint through a thoughtful and proactive green program.

SRJC’s Energy Policy at Work

SRJC’S energy management strategies reflect SRJC’s commitment to identifying effective solutions to energy-related concerns, which are outlined in the College’s Energy Policy that states the College:

“Commits to environmental protection through efficient energy management as a fundamental operational objective that’s integral to the strategy of fulfilling its educational mission.”

The college community is invested in a highly efficient conservation program, because “SRJC recognizes its responsibilities as a contributor to the community, and that (its) operations and facilities impact the environment.” 

The outcome of SRJC’s well-integrated energy efficient products, systems, and procedures is not only a well-established “green” College - a Sustainable SRJC - with an active environmental conservation program underway, but significant energy cost reductions. SRJC achieves sustainability through a number of key tactics:

  • The prudent use of energy resources
  • Prevention and/or minimization of energy-related pollution and wastes
  • Fostering a sense of personal responsibility for energy management
  • Emphasizing water conservation and environmental protection
  • Continuous improvement in college energy management performance
  • Internal deployment of resources to reflect the commitment to environmental protection through efficient energy management

A Statewide Conservation Leader

SRJC was one of the first colleges in California to institute a broad conservation program, and continues to serve as a model energy saving institution to many other community colleges. SRJC’s history of sustainability over the decades has resulted in successfully implementing energy efficient and energy conservation methods. In 1983 when an energy audit of the College was conducted with state and PG&E funds, a 32-volume report resulted with many recommendations for improvement.

Among the recommendations was the installation of an Energy Management System (EMS) that would control the mechanical systems and site lighting in all college buildings and facilities from a computer terminal in SRJC’s central Maintenance Office. After completing the EMS in 1985, all other recommended measures in the audit were completed by 1990, including chiller efficiency upgrades, site lighting efficiency, interior lighting efficiency upgrades, among many others. Only upgrading interior lighting upgrades wasn’t initially accomplished because technology for electronic ballasts was still new and notoriously unreliable. When technology and costs improved, interior lighting improvements were immediately achieved, which generated a three-year payback for an annual savings of $125,000.
SRJC capitalizes on its effective practices of conservation, updating energy efficient facilities and systems, and installing cutting edge energy saving measures. Over the years, SRJC also initiated many conservation and cost reduction measures, including the following examples of our proactive approach:

  • Installation of a cogeneration plant in the Quinn Swim Center to supply hot water and chilled water to numerous buildings, generating $80,000 worth of electricity annually as a by-product and providing a five-year payback to the college. The plant has been upgraded to produce $100,000 worth of electricity annually, which qualified the College for a PG&E rebate of $160,000.
  • SRJC negotiated a favorable electricity rate with PG&E called a curtailable rate, saving between $70,000 and $150,000 in utility costs annually for many years. The College now buys electricity on the open market at significant savings.
  • The College hired a utility billing consultant to review all monthly utility bills for errors, incorrect rates, taxes, and fees. As a result, the consultant then assisted the entire California Community College system, negotiating a new rate for irrigation water usage that greatly reduced the cost of water; with SRJC averaging a savings of $70,000 a year.
  • SJRC is a founding member of School Project for Utility Rate Reduction (SPURR), a consortium of community colleges and K-12 districts that spearheaded utility deregulation in California. SRJC is among the first community colleges to purchase natural gas on the open market, saving the college significant funds. The formation of SPURR encouraged PG&E to lower gas rates in response to SPURR’s competitive buying program. Currently, SRJC uses PG&E for pipeline transmission, but buys the actual gas commodity through SPURR to save 3 to 5 percent annually, compared to PG&E costs.
  • Since completing a lighting system upgrade several years ago, the College installed interior lighting motion sensors that turn building lights off when rooms are unoccupied for more than 10 minutes. The College receives a significant rebate for this approach. More sensors continue to be installed.
  • A new, high efficiency boiler system was installed in the Quinn Swim Center complex, and additional boilers were installed in eight other buildings in summer 2006-07.
  • “Cool roofs” are being installed on each flat roofed building as buildings are being reroofed.