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  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 67.06
Liaison Allie Schwartz
Submission Date April 14, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Columbia University
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.83 / 4.00 Jessica Prata
Assistant Vice President
Environmental Stewardship
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have current and formal plans to advance sustainability in the following areas? Do the plans include measurable objectives?:
Current and Formal Plans (Yes or No) Measurable Objectives (Yes or No)
Curriculum Yes Yes
Research (or other scholarship) Yes Yes
Campus Engagement Yes Yes
Public Engagement No
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015
No
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015
Air and Climate Yes Yes
Buildings Yes Yes
Dining Services/Food Yes Yes
Energy Yes No
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015
Grounds Yes Yes
Purchasing No
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015
No
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015
Transportation Yes Yes
Waste Yes Yes
Water No
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015
No
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015
Diversity and Affordability No
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015
No
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015
Health, Wellbeing and Work Yes Yes
Investment Yes Yes
Other No No

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Curriculum:

The Earth Institute is a centrally administered (University wide) research & education organization that represents a unique model for academia. Faculty are associated with both the Earth Institute and another school or department at the University (i.e. the School of International and Public Affairs, the Engineering School, etc.). Due to this unique model, faculty are encouraged to develop courses for interdisciplinary programs. As sustainability degree offerings continue to expand, more faculty are incentivized to participate. As additional degrees, certificates, and concentrations are added, faculty are encouraged to design courses to fulfill the changing needs of students.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Curriculum plan(s):

The plans for sustainability curriculum involve continually increasing the breadth of courses and expanding as student needs change and evolve. Importantly, plans also call for Engaging faculty who can bring unique perspectives to the issues.

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Curriculum plan(s):

Faculty at the University, including the programs and incentives as organized by the Earth Institute.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Research (or other scholarship):

The Earth Institute is the primary environmental research organization at Columbia University. Their strategic plan includes the creation of channels to support research opportunities for students to achieve sustainability research and knowledge.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Research plan(s):

As described in the Research section – Research Assistant Program, Internship Program, Travel Grant program, EI Student Research showcase, Millennium Villages Student Internships. Additionally, there are research centers established for faculty with plans to encourage ongoing collaborative research. Columbia is a research University, and the existence of the Earth Institute itself provides a community of faculty to participate in research.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Research plan(s):

Faculty at the University, including the programs and incentives as organized by the Earth Institute.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance Campus Engagement around sustainability:

The Columbia Sustainability Advisory Committee has developed a strategic plan to continue engaging stakeholders in order to advance environmental improvement at the University. Part of the process includes verification of this report, data baselining and goal setting. The plan will also include the development of a sustainability roadmap for the University.

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Campus Engagement plan:

The plan outlines the following key steps toward ultimately creating the sustainability roadmap:
1)Baseline key indicators and set goals with University stakeholders
2)Develop working groups to build capacity and increase collaboration between departments and schools
3)Development of a sustainability roadmap for the University
4)Results driven work

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Campus Engagement plan(s):

Environmental Stewardship and the Columbia University Sustainability Advisory Committee.


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance Public Engagement around sustainability:

n/a

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Public Engagement plan(s):

n/a

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Public Engagement plan(s):

n/a

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Air and Climate:

The University has formally committed to the Mayor's Carbon Challenge, and so is working to reduce its GHG emissions by 30% by 2017.


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Air and Climate plan(s):

Columbia has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% from our baseline year by 2017, in accordance with Bloomberg's PlaNYC carbon challenge for Universities.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Air and Climate plan(s):

Columbia University Facilities & Operations; Columbia University Environmental Stewardship

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Buildings:

Sustainability is considered in capital project management processes and all plans for new major projects. Of note, the new Manhattanville campus received LEED Platinum ND and the plan forward for the new buildings includes sustainable features and a consideration for sustainable operations.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Buildings plan(s):

Columbia currently has 10 LEED Certified buildings. Columbia’s capital project management plan includes pursuing LEED accreditation for new construction. Columbia facilities has led the way in building green by increasing the number of buildings on campus with LEED certification.
Columbia’s new campus in West Harlem has achieved Stage 1 Platinum certification under the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot rating system. Manhattanville expansion plans include sustainability aspects, including achieving the highest levels of energy efficiency, neighborhood connectivity, and walkability, while establishing a thriving economy and strengthening ties to the surrounding community.

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Buildings plan(s):

Columbia University Facilities & Operations; Columbia University Environmental Stewardship

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Dining Services/Food:

Columbia Dining has a seven year capital plan. Sustainability is a tenant of how the business is run and this is present on their website, menus, and purchasing patterns.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Dining Services/Food plan(s):

Columbia Dining incorporates menu planning, local purchasing and waste minimization into their strategic planning. The Dining department provides vegetarian and vegan options daily, both in the dining halls and retail outlets. Menus are planned out in advance, and accommodate food allergies and special diets. Fifty percent of meals served in the dining halls are vegetarian and vegan. Meatless Mondays is observed weekly at Ferris Booth Commons.Food is stamped with allergen identification labels that indicate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items, as well as those containing egg or dairy. Each dining hall has a separate table containing raw nuts, seeds and peanut butter.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Dining Services/Food plan(s):

Columbia University Dining, Environmental Stewardship


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Energy:

In addition to the PlaNYC challenge mentioned in the air and climate section, Columbia has adopted demand side energy management plans in order to effectively implement energy conservation projects in a relatively short time frame. Columbia University selected NORESCO, a leading Energy Services Company, to be Columbia’s Demand Side Management partner. This multi-year partnership provides Columbia access to a pool of experts that focus on implementing large-scale energy conservation and renewable energy projects in a compressed time-frame.

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Energy plan(s):

Energy output per building. Columbia engages in competitions periodically, and has a real-time energy dashboard that tracks residence hall energy usage, carbon dioxide equivalent, etc.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Energy plan(s):

Columbia University Facilities & Operations, Columbia University Environmental Stewardship

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Grounds:

Columbia University has a pest management plan that Facilities Department applies to manage its grounds using guidelines that responsibly implement plant selection, leaf composting, and limited use of synthetic pesticides and herbicide applications. All site work is carefully studied to provide the best environment for our plant communities which results in minimal pest infestations.

+ Date Revised: June 23, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Grounds plan(s):

The plan includes the elimination and prevention of vermin through non-chemical methods wherever possible. In general, non-chemical control alternatives are always to be considered prior to the application of pesticides. Where pesticide use is deemed to be essential, the judicious selection shall consider the least toxic treatment possible with emphasis on limiting the potential exposure to the community. The evaluation of the toxicity and exposure potential with any application of pesticides is necessary to assure that the “least toxic, least impact” alternative is chosen.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Grounds plan(s):

Columbia Facilities oversees the overall implementation of the IPM plan. Dr. Jill Gordon, an Urban Entomologist, Rodentologist and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) specialist oversees the application of the principles of IPM to various phases of the Manhattanville in West Harlem development.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Purchasing:

Columbia is working to ensure that items are procured and sourced from certified minority, woman-owned, local suppliers, in a manner consistent with Columbia's strategic goals. Additionally, Central University Purchasing strongly encourages the use of University-wide Purchasing Agreement suppliers in order promote University based initiatives and cost controls. Columbia University has purchasing portals for all centralized computer purchases. The University has restricted and standardized the choice of computers purchasers may select to only EPEAT gold certified models on the CUMC and Morningside CUIT Central Administration portals.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Purchasing plan(s):

Columbia is working diligently through the Staple’s University Agreement to urge departments at Columbia to purchase 30% Recycled Paper. To support this initiative, Staple’s has priced the recycled paper at the same price as the 100% Virgin Paper.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015
+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Purchasing plan(s):

The Procurement department is accountable for decisions made surrounding purchasing plans.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Transportation:

Columbia has hired a new Transportation Demand Management (TDM) director in the Environmental Stewardship office to oversee and manage mode-split, and to encourage University-related individuals to switch from driving cars to a more sustainable commute mode.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Transportation plan(s):

Columbia has committed to reducing these emissions through the greening of our fleets, and encouragement of alternate, less energy-intensive methods of transportation. Please find below resources to help find efficient and sustainable travel modes both to and from Columbia University campuses. Columbia's TDM director is measuring current mode split, and working to implement bike-share, carpooling, vanpooling, etc.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Transportation plan(s):

The TDM Director in Environmental Stewardship is accountable for the Transportation Plans. He works directly with the Executive Director for Transportation, as well as other stakeholders at the University who own fleets, such as Public Safety and Athletics.

+ Date Revised: June 16, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Waste:

Waste minimization is a part of the waste management plan at the University, and is also a core element of the operations throughout the campus.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Waste plan(s):

Departments like Housing, Dining and so forth incorporate waste minimization into their individual operational improvement plans for their departments. For example, Columbia Housing and Environmental Stewardship are collaborating to improve campus recycling, which involves conducting audits as well as implementing new education programming to seek improvement. This plan takes a phased approach, and new campus locations are added to the plan each academic year. With added educational campaigns in more locations each year, as well as information fed to administration through student surveys, the phased-approach plan ensures that Environmental Stewardship will ultimately be able to centralize these efforts and track the collective impact via 1-2 measurable key indicators, including diversion rate.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Waste plan(s):

Columbia University Facilities, Columbia University Environmental Stewardship, Columbia Housing, Columbia Dining.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015
+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Water:

Columbia uses Department of Environmental (DEP) Protection Automatic Meter Readers (AMR) to track water usage. Additionally, one of the winning student Green Fund groups is focusing on water usage and creating an inventory of water usage in various buildings on campus.


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Water plan(s):

The "Columbia Watermark Initiative" is a Green Fund group that exemplifies Columbias commitment to water reduction on campus. The initiative focuses on University water savings by analyzing water use in Furnald Residence Hall to further Columbia's plans to reduce water demand and usage on campus. The team has partnered with the Aquanauts to conduct an audit of water fixtures and flow rates in the building to insure the fixtures are water efficient and low flow. They also partnered with facilities to install a flow-meter to be able to measure flow moving forward. The team will use the information gathered from this audit as a “before” snapshot, which will inform an education campaign around water conservation. The flow-meter will then enable the group to collect an “after” snapshot, and measure relative success after the campaign is launched.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Water plan(s):

Columbia Facilities works with Environmental Stewardship to determine and oversee water plans.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance Diversity and Affordability:

Columbia makes cultural competence training and activities available to all students, staff and administrators and faculty. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action provides training programs to educate faculty, staff and students about conduct that may constitute a violation of University policy, and to inform them of the procedures that are available to manage alleged violations. While any member of the University community may attend, management and supervisory personnel are especially encouraged to participate in these programs, and are expected to be knowledgeable about the University’s policies and procedures. The programs are available to all University departments, and the sessions may be designed to tailor and meet the needs of specific participants.
The Learning and Development Office under the Vice President for Human Resources, provides professional development for faculty and staff. Do the Right Thing is an online training platform that educates faculty and staff regarding behavior and interactions within a diverse work force. Each new staff orientation provides a Statement on the Administrative Code of Conduct and a Statement of Ethical Conduct.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) (Columbia College/Columbia Engineering) promotes an inclusive university climate by acting as an educational resource for undergraduate students. OMA offers diversity education and training programs that are designed to encourage dialogue and interaction among students about issues related to diversity.

Additionally, Columbia hosts a plethora of cultural competency events, presentations, and activities on campus that are open to students, staff and faculty.

Lastly, for decades Columbia University has supported high-achieving, low-income students through the New York State Arthur O. Eve Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP) and our own National Opportunity Program (NOP). These need-based programs provide enhanced academic and financial assistance for a select group of Columbia College and Columbia Engineering students, including a Summer Bridge program before the first year and specialized advising, mentoring and tutoring resources. Additionally, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions conducts targeted outreach to low-income high school students to inform them about Columbia’s academic opportunities and admissions and financial aid process. This outreach includes mailings, e-mail messages, phone calls and invitations to special online chats and webinars.


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Diversity and Affordability plan(s):

The goals of the Multicultural affairs office at Columbia include:

To create a greater sense of community and improve the quality of life for Columbia students.
To create and promote a sense of belonging that permeates throughout all aspects of the campus community (alumni, staff, faculty, students).
To construct institutional values that are responsive to the core principles of the Columbia community/that are upheld by the Columbia Community.
To foster the individual growth and unity of the Columbia community by advancing student learning through programs and experiences that integrate self-awareness, multicultural and intercultural communication skills, and social justice education.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Diversity and Affordability plan(s):

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is accountable for the Diversity and Affordability plans at the University.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Health, Wellbeing and Work:

Columbia University offers a number of programs to help support the health and wellness of its people by encouraging members of the Columbia community to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that are linked to long-term positive outcomes. Browse this section to learn more about Columbia wellness initiatives offered through departments on all campuses, as well as Office of Work/Life-sponsored programs such as the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, Weight Watchers at Work, and the Walk to Wellness Program.


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Health, Wellbeing and Work plan(s):

Columbia University offers a number of programs to help support the health and wellness of its people by encouraging members of the Columbia community to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that are linked to long-term positive outcomes. One example of a measurable way that Columbia is advancing wellness at the University is the Annual Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, run by Work Life. Each week during the first month of this challenge, participants were challenged to adopt a new healthy lifestyle behavior and maintain the healthy habit from the previous weeks. Participants were then challenged to maintain all healthy behaviors for an additional eight weeks. Throughout the HLC+, teams from Columbia University Law School competed amongst themselves to earn points for healthy behaviors. Participants tracked their progress with a daily log and submit scores to their Team Captains weekly.

+ Date Revised: June 15, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Health, Wellbeing and Work plan(s):

Columbia Work Life


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Investment:

The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing was established as a permanent addition to the University in March 2000. The Committee's purpose is to advise the University Trustees on ethical and social issues that arise in the management of the investments in the University's endowment, and to make future plans through recommendations to the University Trustees on issues related to investments in the University’s endowment.

+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Investment plan(s):

The issues reviewed in creating plans include but are not limited to the exercise of the University's proxy-voting rights, shareholder initiatives, and portfolio screening. Looking to the future, the Committee will set out a specific agenda to the Columbia community each fall to be submitted to the University Trustees and the University Senate. Columbia’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI) meets regularly throughout the academic year to garner consensus as to how to vote on proxies. This opinion is then forwarded to a subcommittee of the Trustees of the University who provide the definitive decision.

+ Date Revised: July 8, 2015

Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Investment plan(s):

The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in other areas:

n/a


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the other plan(s):

n/a


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the other plan(s):

n/a


The institution’s definition of sustainability:
---

Does the institution’s strategic plan or equivalent guiding document include sustainability at a high level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution’s strategic plan or equivalent guiding document addresses sustainability:

Columbia University does not have one singular guiding document. Each department/school/unit typically has their own strategic plan, specific to the designated function of the unit and is charged with incorporating sustainability into their operations. Environmental Stewardship and its website serve as a central University resource for this work and captures the collective initiatives of the schools and departments across the University.


The website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability planning is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.