Log In
  • 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 70.78
Liaison Margaret Lo
Submission Date Sept. 1, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

George Mason University
EN-3: Student Life

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Mary Liang
Sustainability Analyst
Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have one or more active student groups focused on sustainability?:
Yes

A brief description of active student groups focused on sustainability:

Green Patriots: The Mason student Green Patriot program is a peer-to-peer outreach program whose focus is on making a tangible difference on sustainability issues on Mason's campuses. The group is supported by Mason's Office of Sustainability.

George Mason University Organic Garden Association (GOGA): GOGA manages the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden located behind the Potomac Heights residence hall on Mason's Fairfax campus. GOGA actively plan, care for, and harvest healthy vegetables and donate them to volunteers and those in need.

UNICEF: George Mason University's UNICEF initiative has taken on the mission to raise awareness and stop deaths in children world wide. Everyday, 21,000 children die from preventable causes. UNICEF is striving to turn that number to zero.

Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Students Association: The ESP-GSA is organized for the purposes of providing activities for graduate students, to foster a sense of community and increase communication within the Environmental Science and Policy department and between other departments in the College of Science.

GMU Cycling Club: GMU Cycling's vision is to be the premier cycling organization and facilitate positive club growth. The club educates GMU students about road, mountain, cross, orienteering, and endurance collegiate cycling.

PATRIOTS FOR PEACE : Patriots for Peace was inspired by the United States Institute of Peace's mission of preventing, mitigating, and resolving violent conflict around the world. We utilize the tools of restorative justice, intercultural dialogue, active listening, and other peace-building qualities to achieve our goals.


The website URL where information about the student groups is available (optional):
---

Does the institution have gardens, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery programs, and/or urban agriculture projects where students are able to gain experience in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems?:
Yes

A brief description of the gardens, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery programs, and/or urban agriculture projects:

Adjacent to student residential halls, the George Mason University Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden was started in April 2009 with the help from the Office of Sustainability. After a rocky start, the garden is now thriving! A large part of its success is due to a student club (George Mason University Organic Garden Association) that oversees and tends to the garden. This group is responsible for garden outreach and education within the Mason community. They are also in charge of coordinating volunteer efforts in the garden.

The garden hosts over 250 volunteers and service learning students and community members each year. Approximately 400 pounds of produce is grown each season. Half of the produce is distributed to garden volunteers and the other half is donated to local food banks as these locations frequently experience a scarcity of fresh, healthful foods.

The Innovation Food Forest (IFF) was the first of its kind for Mason’s campus and for the entire Northern Virginia region when it startede. It was designed as a result of Mason’s first Permaculture Design Certification course in 2012 by one of the course attendees. The purpose of the IFF is to engage and educate Mason and non-Mason community members on methods of food production that are low-impact and self-sustaining. It utilizes permaculture principles of water retention, companion planting, zero waste, and responsible design. All produce grown at this site is available for members of the community to try.

The President’s Park Greenhouse (PPG) was formerly owned by the College of Science and was used to grow plants for Biology and Ecology classes. In 2014, the Office of Sustainability took ownership of the greenhouse and created a plan for year-round food production. The PPG utilizes hydroponic food production systems, which grows produce three to five times faster with 90% less water use than traditional agriculture. Items grown in the PPG include microgreens, basil, oregano, cilantro, romaine lettuce, butter crunch lettuce, amaranth, mustard greens, and many more. The produce grown at PPG is sold to Mason dining. Each year the PPG logs hundreds of volunteer hours and produces approximately 2,000 pounds of produce.


The website URL where information about the gardens, farms or agriculture projects is available (optional):
Does the institution have student-run enterprises that include sustainability as part of their mission statements or stated purposes (e.g. cafés through which students gain sustainable business skills)?:
Yes

A brief description of the student-run enterprises:

George Mason graduate student Jason Force, is the CEO and funder of the enterprise Iron Goat Technology. Iron Goat is a technology company that has created a solution to the inefficiencies associated with conventional methods for deriving biomass pellet product from hay. Their drone harvester processes biomass directly, and also uses the crop as a fuel source to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cost for farmers. The company has won The U.S Department of Energy grand prize in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Track from GE Ventures.


The website URL where information about the student-run enterprises is available (optional):
---

Does the institution have sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives through which students can develop socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible investment and financial skills?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives:

In 2016, George Mason University students, through a class project, worked with Mason’s Human Resources and Payroll to add financial services provider TIAA’s Social Choice Low Carbon Equity Fund option for faculty and staff retirement accounts. This now gives faulty and staff the option to divest their retirement funds from fossil fuels. In addition, Mason’s Career Services has multiple opportunities throughout the school year for students to learn financial skills and literacy. The financial literacy series teaches students about managing credit and the importance of credit scores. The series also explains various types of tax-qualified retirement plans to help student understand their different options.


The website URL where information about the sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives is available (optional):
---

Does the institution have conferences, speaker series, symposia or similar events related to sustainability that have students as the intended audience?:
Yes

A brief description of the conferences, speaker series, symposia or similar events related to sustainability:

In 2016, George Mason University hosted the Sustainable Food Systems Symposium where students and professors from universities in the region came together and discussed how Mason could promote a more sustainable food system. Additionally, Earth Month 2016 had close to 30 activities and events across 3 Mason campuses. Over 1,000 people attended these events, which included panel discussions, film screenings with speakers, research showcases, and a two-day sustainability and well being retreat. Earth Month occurs annually with the help of the Office of Sustainability and student organizations such as the Green Patriots.


The website URL where information about the conferences, speaker series, symposia or similar events related to sustainability is available (optional):
---

Does the institution have cultural arts events, installations or performances related to sustainability that have students as the intended audience?:
Yes

A brief description of the cultural arts events, installations or performances related to sustainability:

In 2016, George Mason participated in it 5th annual Green Game where volunteers assist the Office of Sustainability in diverting as much waste as possible. Over 5,000 students, staff, faculty, and community members attended this annual event. The Green Game is part of a nation wide RecycleMania Tournament, where universities compete to divert the most trash at sporting events. At the game, each trash bin was paired up with a compost and recycling bin, as well as student volunteers who directed game attendees to recycle and compost their waste. George Mason succeeded in diverting approximately 83% of trash from the landfills. The main purpose of this game was to engage Mason students in sustainability-related activities and behaviors.


The website URL where information about the cultural arts events, installations or performances is available (optional):
Does the institution have wilderness or outdoors programs (e.g. that organize hiking, backpacking, kayaking, or other outings for students) that follow Leave No Trace principles?:
Yes

A brief description of the wilderness or outdoors programs that follow Leave No Trace principles:

Mason currently has a Parks and Outdoor Recreation degree, which requires a 68-credit professional sequence experience. This hands-on program curriculum includes courses in leadership and administration, natural resources management, outdoor recreation programming, and environmental education. In the required course, Leadership and Outdoor Education (PRLS 316), one main course objective is developing a “Leave No Trace” land ethic.


The website URL where information about the wilderness or outdoors programs is available (optional):
Does the institution have sustainability-related themes chosen for themed semesters, years, or first-year experiences (e.g. choosing a sustainability-related book for common reading)?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-related themes chosen for themed semesters, years, or first-year experiences:

The Mason Reads program picks a common book for incoming freshmen and infuses the book into academic classes and co-curricular programming. In Fall 2016, Mason Reads choose Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem, which discusses current accelerating extinction rates and other sustainability issues. Mason Reads composed a reading guide for the book, which challenged students to make a difference and become more sustainable. Mason also hosted an event for Jon Mooallem to speak about the book, and expand on the importance of wild life in the pursuit for sustainability.


The website URL where information about the sustainability-related themes is available (optional):
Does the institution have programs through which students can learn sustainable life skills?:
Yes

A brief description of the programs through which students can learn sustainable life skills:

Patriot Green Fund: An internal grant funding program that offers students an opportunity to serve on the committee that disperses funding. This experience offers students an opportunity to learn about sustainable operations, project management, and grant writing skills.

Environmental and Sustainability Living Learning Community (LLC): An on campus residential community, which allows students to build a sense of unity through a common vision of a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable future for our planet. As a group that lives together, Environment and Sustainability LLC members have a unique opportunity to support one another in green living efforts. Students in the hall use a worm composting bin, conserve energy, cook together, and enjoy the company of good neighbors.

Green Patriot Program: A student organization focused on engaging students in sustainability-related issues both on and off campus. Some of the student-led workshops and events have been: panel discussions, community hikes, film screenings, various community service events focused on sustainability, and eco-art.

Permaculture Design Course: In 2016, George Mason offered the Permaculture Design Certification course for the fifth year in a row. This course teaches members of the Mason and surrounding communities about low-impact food production, renewable energy, self-sufficient living, agro-forestry, and environmentally-responsible design.


The website URL where information about the sustainable life skills programs is available (optional):
---

Does the institution offer sustainability-focused student employment opportunities?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-focused student employment opportunities offered by the institution:

The Office of Sustainability and Mason Dining offer paid student internships with a specific focus on sustainability. These programs aim to help Mason become more sustainable and enrich the student experience. These paid internships help reinforce sustainability focused learning and apply it to the campus community.


The website URL where information about the student employment opportunities is available:
Does the institution have graduation pledges through which students pledge to consider social and environmental responsibility in future job and other decisions?:
No

A brief description of the graduation pledges:
---

The website URL where information about the graduation pledges is available (optional):
---

Does the institution have other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives?:
Yes

A brief description of the other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives:

George Mason’s Office of Social Action and Integrative Learning offers students a unique opportunity during spring break to engage in Alternative Break (AB) program. Mason’s AB programs are collaboratively designed by students and staff to address social issues through education and community service. Alternative Break teams face challenging issues such as discrimination, inadequate housing, hunger, and poverty. Students emerge from these experiences transformed with new ideas, perspective, and experiences that inspire active and engaged citizenship. In spring of 2017, the Ecosystem Restoration AB program in Stuart, Florida gave students a chance to return land to its pre-development state. Projects included planting native trees and removing invasive plants, oyster reef building, beach cleanup, and park maintenance.

Additionally, George Mason University has an innovative role to encourage co-curricular sustainability programs called the Fellow (or Coordinator) of Sustainability Studies. The Sustainability Studies Fellow promotes sustainability scholarship and curricula across Mason’s academic units through a two-year, half time position in the Office of the Provost.

Specific tasks include:

- Developing and implementing an action plan for the Vision for Sustainability in Academic Endeavors at Mason;
- Chairing the Sustainability Studies Advisory Council (SSAC) while participating in pertinent Mason-wide committees;
- Communicating current curricular efforts in sustainability;
- Supporting faculty and curriculum development activities surrounding sustainability issues;
- Coordinating the development of interdisciplinary sustainability research and scholarly programs;
- Coordinating internal and external communications and marketing efforts regarding courses and programs in sustainability;
- Assisting with integration of coursework in this area with existing and potential majors, minors, certificates, and general education; and
- Working with University Life, Facilities and other Mason vice presidents’ sustainability efforts to promote co-curricular activities.


The website URL where information about other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives is available (optional):
Estimated percentage of students (full-time and part-time) that participate annually in sustainability-focused co-curricular education and outreach programs (0-100):
---

Additional documentation to support the submission:
---

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.