SDSU, as a member of the California State University system, has a long history of supporting sustainable actions. In 2014 the CSU adopted a system-wide sustainability policy which built on energy conservation initiatives going back to the first energy policy adopted in 1978. The 2014 policy addresses issues of University Sustainability, sets a Climate Action Plan, promotes Energy Independence and Procurement, Energy Conservation and Utility Management, Water Conservation, Waste Management, Procurement, Food Service, Building Practices and Physical Plant Management.
The 2013 SDSU Strategic Plan identified Climate Change and Sustainability Studies as Areas of Excellence that should be supported by investment by campus. In May, 2015 two areas, global diversity and water scarcity, were awarded funding for interdisciplinary faculty positions in each area. The strategic plan also set aside funding for investment in initiatives that will advance the San Diego community, including initiatives to clean up the area surrounding campus and increase public transit options to campus.
In 2014, President Elliot Hirshman signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, setting SDSU on a path towards carbon neutrality. President Hirshman signed the Climate Action Plan in 2017, which sets goals for carbon neutrality by 2050 and operational carbon neutrality by 2040. Several other sustainability topics are addressed, including waste, water, food, and academics.
SDSU began offering a Sustainability Major in 2013 and a Sustainability Minor in 2016, demonstrating the campus commitment to training students to be leaders in sustainability.
San Diego State University has been recognized for several of its achievements in sustainability. Several of these efforts were due to the advocacy and support of students, including the LEED Platinum Student Union and the campus bike paths. Students continue to make contributions through sustainability student groups.
In 2012, SDSU received a Silver rating through the STARS campus sustainability rating system. Multiple campus buildings have been LEED certified through the United States Green Building Council, starting with the Mission Bay Aquatic Center's LEED Platinum for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance in 2013.
San Diego State University builds upon this legacy to expand sustainability efforts around operations, engagement, education, and research.