Charlie Trujillo graduated from SDSU in 2021 with a degree in Sustainability and Computer Engineering. While in college, Charlie was heavily involved in Green Love and joined the San Diego Green Building Council. He is passionate about green buildings and making our built environment as sustainable as it can be! Keep reading to learn about Charlie’s sustainability journey, the start to his career, and his advice for students.
Can you tell me about your sustainability journey at SDSU?
“Going into SDSU, I wasn’t environmentally conscious at all. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that things changed. I was working at Amazon and I got tired of seeing all of the envelopes and packaging materials that couldn’t be recycled. The manager at the time told me I could change it as long as I stayed within budget. Since I wasn’t aware of reusing, recycling, and repurposing materials, I had no idea how to do that. So, I googled “SDSU sustainability club” and Green Love popped up. That’s actually why I joined the first meeting- to learn a little bit more about repurposing materials. I didn’t find a solution that was in budget, but I ended up staying in Green Love because the people were really nice and passionate about what they were doing. The first committee I joined was the gardening committee and then I became more involved with the events committee planning the Green Lunch Bag Series. Eventually, I became chair of the events committee and held that position until I graduated.”
“Coming into SDSU, I was strictly a computer engineering major. After joining Green Love, I picked up sustainability as a minor and eventually added it as another major. One of the classes that stuck out to me was Geography-170 (Sustainable Place Practice). I really enjoyed that class because each week we covered a different sustainability topic. Sustainability 353 (Sustainability and Culture) was another one I really enjoyed. Both presented a broad view of sustainability and related it to our everyday lives. After that, I thought about how to combine sustainability and engineering and settled on green buildings.”
What are you doing now post-graduation?
“I’m involved with the San Diego Green Building Council mostly through the Electric Home Cooktop Program. The SDGBC is involved in the commercial sector of green buildings, but we want to get more involved in the residential sector. We have this program that allows participants to check out an induction cooktop at no cost for three weeks. When the time comes to replace their current cooktop, they are more likely to choose induction or standard electric if they have experience using it. We are trying to raise awareness on the benefits of switching from gas to electric, or even better induction. Benefits include improved indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and more.”
What would you say are the biggest environmental problems with buildings?
“Buildings in general have a very large impact on the environment. They are responsible for about 40% of the world's energy consumption, 30% of GHG emissions, and 30% of waste, so when the opportunity to construct a new building arises is it important to incorporate green building practices from the very beginning because it will lead to reduced environmental impacts and greater economic benefits to the client. A green building myth is that constructing "green buildings" is incredibly more expensive than a traditional building. However, studies have shown that the marginal cost of green buildings is only around 2%. The cost is simply shifted towards the beginning of the project, however as time goes by, the project incurs lower operational costs as well as higher occupant productivity and they eventually get a return on investment.”
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in sustainability?
“Definitely get involved! It wasn’t into I got involved that I started to find what I actually liked to do. You also get to network with like-minded people. Aside from professional development, some of my best friends are from Green Love, the student organization I got involved in. Career-wise, I would say to figure out what you’re passionate about and then pursue that. I know it sounds cliché but that’s what I did. Once I figured out that I liked green buildings, everything that I did school-wise focused on that from any projects that I did to classes I selected. I also pursued certifications while I was in school that helped me gain experience for green buildings. I got the LEED Green Associate, EcoDistricts Accredited Professional, and TRUE Advisor accreditations.”