Special Thanks to Our Sponsor

Heller Foundation


If you would like to be put on the distribution list to receive a Center 'update' announcement 1-2 times per month regarding events and activities in sustainable agriculture happening at Cal Poly and on the Central Coast, click here or email the Center For Sustainability with the word "subscribe" in the subject. Please use the same address to notify the Center of any pertinent announcements!

For detailed listings of other events, opportunities and resources for sustainable agriculture at Cal Poly and on the Central Coast, please visit recent postings on our Announcements page!

Adapted from: National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Carbon Literacy: Why care about carbon?

Excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere are warming the planet. These higher temperatures aren’t just a small inconvenience. They are resulting in rising sea levels, more extreme weather patterns, ocean acidification, and desertification.  This is leading to severe impacts on the world's populations, including displacement, food and water insecurity, and loss of livelihoods.

To combat climate change, we need to reduce emissions (by using less gasoline and electricity, and creating less waste) AND remove the excess carbon in the atmosphere. The greatest way to remove large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere is through photosynthesis, the process performed by all plants and trees. Plants then take that captured carbon, store some as plant material and transfer some to the soil, where more carbon is stored underground. All the plants around us and the soil under our feet are tremendous carbon sinks.

Carbon & Farming: What's the connection between agriculture and climate change?

Agriculture (and our food supply) is affected by and contributes to climate change. But that’s not the whole story. Carbon farming methods can help more plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and transfer it to the soil. Soils rich in carbon lead to climate resilient crops and pastures. That means agriculture can not only reduce the effects of climate change, but reverse them!

Our poster below summarizes the ways climate change affects agriculture, and the methods for and benefits of increasing soil carbon in agricultural systems:

Center intern John Stepanek spent the 2016-17 academic year compiling educational materials for carbon literacy and climate smart agriculture. Please click below to see John put it all together for Earth Week 2017 (download accompanying slides by CLICKING HERE):


ur food choices matter: What can we do?

Food connects us all. We all need to understand the resources that go into producing food, distributing food, and dealing with waste, and then participate to create a sustainable food system. These are some great ways to start:

  • Buy local/regional food when possible 
  • Eat in-season produce 
  • Choose organic or no-spray produce at the market  
  • Reduce meat consumption, and choose responsibly raised meats when buying 
  • Get to know your farmers!  Most growers are happy to share the ways they care for the land in ways beyond what is represented by a label  
  • Grow some of your own food 
  • Reduce food waste and compost the rest 

Think globally, act locally: What is happening at the Center for Sustainability and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo?

Carbon Farm Planning
Sprout Up: Climate Literacy for K-12
Cal Poly Dining: Reduce Your Foodprint
Cal Poly Sustainability and Climate Action
Soil Dimensions: Soil health webinar series* (coming soon)
More links at the CFS Homepage

Our partners in California:
Association of Compost Producers
California Climate and Agriculture Network
Carbon Cycle Institute

Learn more

National and international organization working on climate smart solutions:

Project Drawdown4 per 1000 FAO Climate Smart

Project Drawdown

4 per 1000 Initiative

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Climate Smart Agriculture

USDA Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry (PDF)


Books that inspire action*:

Dan Barber (2015). The Third Plate: Field notes on the future of food

Jonathan Bloom (2011). American Wasteland: How America throws away nearly half of its food (and what we can do out it)

Gabe Brown (2018). Dirt to Soil: One family's journey into Regenerative Agriculture

Miriam Horn (2017). Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation heroes of the American heartland

Anna Lappe (2010). Diet for a Hot Planet: The climate crisis at the end of your fork & what you can do about it 

David Montgomery (2017). Growing a Revolution: Bringing our soils back to life

Kristin Ohlson (2014). The Soil Will Save Us: How scientists, farmers, and foodies are healing the soil to save the planet

Judith Schwartz (2013). Cows Save the Planet: And other improbable ways of restoring soil to heal the earth

Josh Tickell (2017). Kiss the Ground: How the food you eat can reverse climate change, heal your body and ultimately save our world

Eric Toensmeier (2016). The Carbon Farming Solution: A global toolkit of perennial crops and regenerative agriculture practices for climate change mitigation and food security 

* By far not an exhaustive list, just a few recent picks that give good overall summaries for everyone. Let us know if you would like your fav added to the list!

For more information, please contact us at cfs@calpoly.edu or call 805-756-5086.