Claradise, the land of unrivaled and unsustainable beauty

1When I first stepped foot on the campus as a freshman this year, it was like I was in another world. The sight was still shocking, even though I am a California native and have only lived half an hour away up north. The one thing that a student notices when they first come here to visit or to start school is the pretty scenery: the luscious green grass, the numerous palm trees, and the incredibly beautiful plants throughout the campus. Although it is a known fact that Santa Clara University has a visually appealing campus, it was still such a shock to me. People all over the Bay Area are suffering through a severe drought, and are cutting back on their water usage in an attempt to curb the massive effects. The result was dead grass, and a lush, healthy green lawn was subsequently frowned upon. Water has become so valuable in California these past few years, and seeing water wasted on unnecessary objects or events is not sustainable. Seeing Santa Clara University’s perfect grass raised suspicion, but this suspicion was seemingly negated by SCU’s rank of 11 in the greenest universities (The 39). Seeing the ranking still did not quell my curiosity on whether or not the university actually values their commitment to sustainability they made in 2004 (University, Santa Clara).

Santa Clara University has made numerous upgrades to its campus and residence halls in order to try to be sustainable with their water usage. For example, according to Santa Clara University’s Center for Sustainability, the university has upgraded the residence hall appliances like low-flow shower heads, sink aerators, and water free urinals to reduce the daily water consumption on campus. Outside, the school has modified its water recycling system so that irrigation will no longer consume potable water, but instead gray or recycled water. Furthermore, the school has changed its dining services to help with water conservation by offering a wide variety of vegetarian food instead of meat, which uses tons of water while in production.

From the broader perspective, Santa Clara looks like it is doing a lot to maintain their commitment to water sustainability, but they still haven’t achieved complete sustainability. By that, I mean water should only be used on necessary areas or used to the bare minimum, if you must water your plants for example. After looking for hours for the water consumption of the school online, I decided to ask one of the Assistant Directors of grounds and operations, and they helpfully gave me the numbers. Santa Clara University uses a total of 120.5 million gallons of water per year, which comes out to 13,388 gallons per student. Although that may not mean much now, comparing them to local schools nearby changes the perspective. UC Santa Cruz, which has twice the student body as Santa Clara and a much bigger campus, uses 150 million gallons of water with 8,823 gallons per student (Water Use). If that is not enough to provide scrutiny towards Santa Clara University’s water usage then this will. San Jose State University, which has four times as many students as well as a bigger campus uses 142 million gallons of water, but only 4,437 gallons per student (Facilities).

If these other Universities nearby, who are also in the same drought, are able to greatly consume less water than Santa Clara University, then Santa Clara University is not doing an adequate job in its commitment to water sustainability. The University can do more to cut back on their water consumption, but only if they value their commitment to it as its highest. Right now, the University has a different value which explains their lack of complete effort to their commitment.


While looking at the residential graph of water consumption by activity, the second highest bar was bathroom utilities at 32%(graph on my trial thesis). Although this isn’t a regular household, I decided to look into whether Santa Clara could do more in its bathrooms. One of the first obvious thoughts that came to mind was showering. After living here for a quarter, I have grown accustomed to the hearing the water on in the bathroom for a long length of time, more than the time it should take to shower which is 5 minutes from the Water Conservation News & Tips (Leigh). One of the biggest flaws in showering here is there is no way to limit someone from showering for a long time. But there could be.

I have heard that Universities over in China have found a way to limit the water for showering. The method is pretty simple. So in the shower stall there would be some sort of scanner for a card or ID number and once you put in your identification, you would get to water for an amount of time. When the time expires, the water will turn off and you will not be able to shower again until the next day. This method would save so much water because it would be able to control the water usage depending on water availability. For the school to put this in action, it would only require water timers and a scanner in each shower stall. Realistically, it is possible and it would save water as well as money and the school should consider in investing in this technology.

Furthermore, the University claims to be using low-flow showerheads but the water pressure made me experiment and see if they were right or wrong. Using a bucket and filling it up for ten seconds for one shower on each floor of the Campisi dorm, I determined that the “1.5 gallons” on the University website was false. My experiment showed that they were well above that flow rate at 2.377, 2.028, and 2.061 gallons per minute. But the University may still be true with their low flow shower heads, except there’s a catch. You are able to change the pressure and flow of water on these shower heads, but not one of the ten people I asked in the dorm were aware of the fact. The University did not educate the students at all, and the result is unnecessary wastage of water.3

In addition to the lack of education, half the time I walk into the bathroom I can hear water dripping constantly from a shower head. It may be the student’s’ fault, but from personal experience, you need to turn the shower knobs very tightly to get the water to stop dripping. Every year a shower head that drips at ten drops per minute wastes 500 gallons per year (Page). But the drip rate is much faster than that. It is at least maybe 30 drops per minutes. It is very constant. The University should be worried about this problem and fix it immediately if they are at all committed to sustainability.

These previous water saving tips save water, but there are even better ways to save more water in the bathroom. Most people shower everyday, or maybe even twice a day. But in reality people should only shower once or twice a week(Borelli). Showering daily is good for hygiene but it is really bad for our skin. It dries the skin which can lead to infection and also weaken our immune system. So if all the students at Santa Clara University showered three to four times a week, which is generous, the school would save a tremendous amount of water, but it can’t do that. The University can not market that to the public. Too many people are used to showering every day and think skipping a day is disgusting. Taking away student’s shower time may lose the school money and it is understandable of why they do not have stricter water usage rules in the bathroom, so instead the school should focus on another area that won’t affect as many people.

The number one source of water for residential houses is landscaping at 51%. From that data, it can be determined that landscaping uses a lot of water. Looking into Santa Clara University’s water consumption for landscaping was around 34 million gallons last year. That’s a lot of water just for plants and grass that only beautify the school grounds. All throughout the drought the University continued to water the grass, while everyone around the school let their grass day. The response for the watering the grass was that they were using recycled water. It does seem nice and dandy, but it is manipulative. It implies that the school recycles the water they use in showers and sinks, but they really don’t. The water actually comes from a water recycling plant nearby that the school pays for. It isn’t really the school’s water. But having recycled water being the excuse for watering the grass is not enough. There should be no reason for watering of any grass, recycled water or not. Water is water. The school could’ve used that recycled water for something else like filling the toilets with it like San Jose State does (Facilities). There are other ways to use recycled water and it was not necessary for the university to water its grounds. It was only necessary to keep the campus perfect. Perfect is not sustainable and not necessary, but in the terms of a business it is.

4The University has though, made some strides in improving its landscape by planting native plants in the native plant garden by the library and California native field sedge near Bellomy fields. But why not anywhere else? These native plants which are used to the climate here, the long dry summers and the very dry winter, would save water because they would not need to be watered as much. According to the University’s Landscaping page, they claim they plant plants where it is “appropriate.” Apparently it is only appropriate to plant them in two places: one in a garden and the other where no one goes. Shouldn’t these native plants be appropriate anywhere? They belong here, unless the standards or definition for “appropriate” is different. Instead of these native plants they have palm trees or rose bushes which aren’t native and require lots of water. So these plants that they plant somehow are “appropriate?” Whenever I see a pamphlet from Santa Clara University, I always see the palm trees in at least one picture. Are these plants just only “appropriate” because of the visual appeal that they bring to the campus?

If the University values the visual appeal of the campus more than water sustainability, then why are they not placing mulch on the grounds? Everywhere I walk, I see dirt. It is not very appealing to look at and mulch would change that. Mulch is like bark and makes the grounds look much nicer, but it also can help conserve water. The mulch would keep the ground moist longer and during the summer would manage the temperature, meaning that the plants would not need to be watered as much (Kelsey). So the University would satisfy both values if they decided to purchase a mulch throughout its grounds.

The grounds are made up of about 40 acres of landscape. But how much of it’s grass? Santa Clara University has lots of grass and a low estimate would be 15 acres of it. Watering grass takes up 62 gallons per 10 square feet(How to). If you did the calculation that would be about 4 million gallons of water per year. That’s a lot of water for nothing. Not many people use the grass in some areas and those areas could be changed and no one would really notice. Instead of grass the University could switch to drought tolerant landscapes. Drought tolerant landscapes require significantly less water than other species and would greatly save a lot of water.


From a far enough position when observing SCU we can see it is quite devoted to sustainability and that it sticks by values and its statements on sustainability. For starters it has separate websites on it with extremely pretty yet straight forward links to more and more information on sustainability issues the school is facing and the actions it is taking { Sustainability }. This straightforwardness and openness almost perhaps unintentionally gives it an image synonymous to that of a proud kindergartner who had done his homework on multiplication tables and is reciting them with great enthusiasm and pride. nonetheless as the homework has been done it is only fair that we show an equal, if not pretend, amount of interest in what is being presented to us.

The first tab available to us is a tab called “take action” and clicking it takes us to a very clean and disciplined page which has even more links to more specific issues that are going on, what the school is doing and what we as individuals can do to help { Take }. Despite the tangent nature of this writing the remainder of the path should continue taking us closer and closer to our main point and focus.

The first relevant link, which so happens to be the very first link, should serve as the deep well through which all the questions that one may have concerning sustainability of water at SCU could, would and should be satisfied. Under the seemingly simple and fairly straight forward tab “conserve water” the openness of the school on what its stance is and what it has been doing to achieve that could even serve to impress the most critical of all viewers. I remember specifically when first researching my specific topic for this essay and coming across this the very first time and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I mean I knew that the school had a focus on sustainability so I was expecting something but nothing of the level which I had observed. The detailed nature of their definition definitely strives away from my previous impressions of vagueness when reading through the school’s values. Needless to say I was impressed. And this was not all. Further investigations into the webpages and even the curriculum itself will show the school’s unwavering and intense focus on really ensuring that this topic of sustainability, be it of water or not, is given the attention and focus that it deserves. It was truly trying to educate both the mind and the body of its students.There were values and there were actions backing those values. { Conserve Water }

But were the actions as responsible as they seemed?

I mean they appear to be so. At least it should, we are ranked the 11th greenest school in all of United States from this ranking by

Well this is the sadder part of the paper. We have a saying in my native language where it says we should not flip the linen of our own thigh only to smash it. Admittedly it sounds much cooler and catchier in my mind but this is what we are going to see as continue to move along. We are going to see a person expose and pillory something that is almost a part of him.

The remaining part of this essay and this journey that we have taken together will be in that matter of a 2 strong foundational pillar design. I will offer 2 sources of support which will act as columns upon which the main thesis of this paper will lie and hopefully, if the columns serve their purpose, will be high and stable enough for you, the reader, to climb on and see over the veil of intentional illusion that is being casted right in front of our eyes on this topic of sustainability of water.

The first leg would begin with questioning the school if it is really doing the right thing? Is it taking the right initiatives to back its own values? For this I found this amazing official government issued document that lists very detailed actions that colleges can do to reduce their water footprints. I have to shamelessly admit that this document opened my eyes on certain things.

As a group one of our very first task was to find areas to criticize and offer solutions. The first part was relatively easy but it would be accurate to say that we dug our own trenches when criticizing these problems because we could not offer solutions. We had ideas but most if not all of them were deemed too far fetched. Some were too expensive. We talked about using green roofs to reduce the water lost through evaporation and heat. Some were too difficult to achieve technologically. We kinda talked about how the school could implement more water efficient showerheads or just water efficient technologies. Some were just impossible to do on a wide scale. We talked about how the school could potentially catch rainwater. None of these seemed plausible. Or so we thought.

The document had answers to our questions and solutions to our problems. All the things that we thought were impossible for the school, were being done in other colleges and universities. The university of texas already has a 1000 square foot  green roof. UC Berkeley has started on a water action plan that involves installing water efficient technologies all across the campus that domestic water consumption fell up to 40% in the last decade. Several universities in California, the land of the drought, have rain harvesting systems that are in many ways helping them achieve higher sustainability on campus. These are just a few things that some other colleges are trumping us at our own game and the more I researched into what was going on in these other schools the more confusing it was.

UC Berkeley was one school that I researched deeply and what I found deeply troubled me. Their focus on using technology to conserve water was amazing. Every dorm and every facility on campus was fitted with LEED renovations that saved around 40 % of domestic water usage. They had plans for harvesting rainwater with a tank that had up to the capacity of 12,000 gallons. They were changing their one green yet unsustainable landscapes into meadows. They had plans to change their landscape with more native landscape such as with strawberry fields. They were spending millions of dollars in research, renovations and alterations of their landscapes to be more sustainable. Why then? Why is our school not doing those? Why is our school not putting the same efforts as others to fulfill our own self dictated values of sustainability? { Zhang } Do we not value our own values as much as other schools?

The second leg is somewhat of a before and after comparison of SCU. For this I will be comparing how SCU fares in comparison to itself in the field of sustainability of water over the years. It is sometimes to see how actions or values change over time.

5I will admit this part may appear purely opinion based but I will be trying to present an argument that is unbiased. It is more difficult to compare it to its past as I have no detailed documents or numbers but what I will be using is much better as I believe that it allows the audience to follow along as I make my conclusions based on observations. Obviously many things have changed and there are many factors that may come into play that would affect this observation but I still believe these two pictures highlights one of the greatest changes that has occurred over time. Whereas before the school was much more simple and one might even argue sustainable, over time the school has put more emphasis on making the student’s life here more comfortable. This may not sound like a bad thing but combine this with the student population boom and there exist a problem. The dorm rooms only started looking like that after the completion of O conor hall (which was initially a dorm room) and that meant more and more buildings and more and more usage of water not only in total but the water consumption per student would also rise. Somewhere along the line the school decided to sacrifice its level of sustainability for more students

Campisi layout 2016 – 2017

So with great intrigue and confusion the question here is why would the school spend resources to create values which are intentionally and repeatedly let down by the actions that the school is taking or rather not taking. My answer to my own question is that values are extremely important in the creation of impression in the public eye. These unmet values are important in the creation of the impression and the image of the school: claradise.

This word claradise is a source of great intrigue with questionable characteristics. First of all, if you unfamiliar with the word it’s quite simple. It is the combination of clara and paradise and the important part of that sentence being that the one word that is immediately associated with SCU is paradise. Second, no I did not just make that up, legends say that it has existed since the start of humanity (disclaimer, the author does not really know when so is using hyperboles) but the important thing every party associated with SCU has accepted the word. In fact I will try to argue that this is the perfect image that they have assimilated into their overall image.

I know this is a pretty strong suggestion to make as an individual and honest to god when my English professor asked me where my proof was I was stymied. I had and still have no numbers or data to back up a perspective point and as I was on the verge of giving up on this concept I started to back track my thinking. What made me think that? I mean I was pretty strong and definitive in my belief of my perspective so there had to be a reason. There had to be some influencing factor that made me think this way and that was when I realized that I am an example of whatever influence it was. I am the proof of how this idea of claradise worked for the benefit of Santa Clara University. So, finding for the evidence became a much less herculean task than it was before. I thought of ways how I came to know and see Santa Clara University as a claradise.  The most powerful influence responsible will probably be word of mouth as that was how I was first introduced to the idea anyway. My brother told me about how beautiful the campus was and I had a friend who strongly suggested that I choose santa clara for its”palm trees and pretty buildings”. Of course on the social media or the internet generally, santa clara has garnered itself a reputation and most descriptions would often yield the words beautiful or palm trees. Then again these are not endorsed by the school so it does not really prove my point. So now we are going into the sector describing some ways in which the school embraces and utilizes the impression of claradise. The first thing that I did when I was first accepted to this wonderful school was look at their website to clarify my confusion on my next steps. The biggest words on the screen that greeted me was “WELCOME TO CLARADISE” and now it is interesting to me how the school chooses its image of being like a paradise to describe itself to all incoming freshmen. As if it was something that they had worked hard  for, as if it was something that they were proud of. Then came to my house the pamphlets and the glorified word claradise comes up again. In fact, a short search for the word claradise on their website yields up to 22 results. Now all these are proof of the embracement and sustainment of the image claradise by the school. The word was not a mere representation by the public of the school rather than slowly has become the embodiment of the school itself. When people think of SCU they do not, or at least no longer, think of its prided values, but rather that it is a pretty school and the actions of the school have done nothing but empower it.

The actions that the school have done, the shallowness of them, does not make sense when looking them as having the purpose of reinforcing the school’s values, but when you look at them as having the purpose of painting this image of palm trees and almost resort like nature it makes more sense. And why is this image so important? Well I did a little walk down the road survey and came up with the answer. I asked any student (which I did not know personally hence to remove bias and anonymous so that I could not be biased) the first thing that comes into their minds when I say Santa Clara university. A staggering 98 percent of the 100 students (so 98 students) said something along the lines of “the school is really pretty”. I am not saying those 98 students choose SCU because it has unsustainable palm trees. What I am saying is that is at least in the students minds this is the most important or perhaps more accurately most noticeable characteristic of SCU. This is what the school is. Hundreds of thousands of seniors in high school right now also know that and are thinking about how great it would be to go to a school dubbed claridise and receive education for the whole body and be part of a great organization that has great values and initiatives in saving the world. This image is the part of the product of SCU that is being offered to any potential students and hence is an integral part of their business strategy and their marketing mix. The actions that it takes are shallow for sustainability reasons but complete and perfect for economic/ financial reasons.

Works Cited

“Conserve Water.” Conserve Water – Take Action – Sustainability at SCU – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

“The 39 Greenest Universities of 2016.” Best Colleges. N.p., 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Borreli, Lizette, and Lizette Borreli Liz Is a Senior Reporter at Medical Daily Who Is an Outdoorsy Sports Enthusiast Focused on Sexual Health, Relationships and Healthy Living. Read More. “How Often Should You Shower?” Medical Daily. N.p., 09 Sept. 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

“Facilities Development and Operations.” Water | Facilities Development and Operations | San Jose State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

“How to Calculate Lawn Irrigation Water Usage and Costs.” Today’s Homeowner. N.p., 22 May 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Leigh, Erica. “The Recommended Time to Shower to Conserve Water.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 06 Nov. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

“Mission, Vision, Values.” Mission, Vision, Values – About SCU – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. <;.

“Page Name.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017

“Santa Clara 2020 – Santa Clara University.” Santa Clara 2020 – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. <;..

“Saving Water: Wise, Overdone or Practiced Too Excessively?” Umweltbundesamt. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Selewicz, Ryan. “Santa Clara University Archives.” RYAN SELEWICZ. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

“Strategic Priorities.” Strategic Priorities – Santa Clara 2020 – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

“Sustainability at SCU.” Sustainability at SCU – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017. <>.

“Take Action.” Take Action – Sustainability at SCU – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.

University, Santa Clara. “Landscaping.” Landscaping – Buildings & Grounds – Campus Operations – Sustainability at SCU – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

University, Santa Clara. “Sustainability Policy.” Sustainability Policy – University Commitments – Sustainability at SCU – Santa Clara University. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

“Water Use at UCSC.” Water Use at UCSC. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Zhang, Joanna. UC Berkeley water usage and conservation study report. N.p., 4 Dec. 2010. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.


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