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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 68.76
Liaison Kimberly Williams
Submission Date Feb. 27, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

George Washington University
OP-10: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.62 / 2.00 Ronda Chapman-Duer
Sustainability Project Facilitator
Division of Operations
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds::
Total campus area 200 Acres
Footprint of the institution's buildings 53 Acres
Area of undeveloped land, excluding any protected areas 0 Acres

Area of managed grounds that is::
Managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan 80 Acres
Managed in accordance with a sustainable landscape management program that includes an IPM plan and otherwise meets the criteria outlined 7.50 Acres
Managed organically, third party certified and/or protected 0 Acres

A copy of the IPM plan:
The IPM plan :

The George Washington University Integrated Pest Management Plan
1. The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan for GW grounds applies to all three GW campuses: the Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC), the Mount Vernon Campus (MVC), and the downtown Foggy Bottom campus.
2. GW grounds IPM plan adheres to the following four-tiered approach: 1. Set action Thresholds, 2. Monitor and identify pests, 3. Prevention, 4, Control.
3. Applicability- This applies to all cultivated grounds on all GW campuses.
4. All 7.5 acres of the Foggy Bottom campus grounds are covered by our IPM plan.

A brief summary of the institution’s approach to sustainable landscape management:

At George Washington University, we strive to manage our landscapes in a responsible, sustainable, and well thought out manner. Aesthetics and appearance are always important factors on a university campus, but our main goal is to improve the health of the campus ecosystem and maximize usability for the campus community.

To attain this goal, we have begun a variety of sustainable landscaping programs. These programs include Grass to Gardens, Pollinator Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Pesticide Free Landscaping, and a commitment to the Tenets of Xeriscaping.

Grass to Gardens is an effort to replace unusable patches of turf with native plant beds that will reduce runoff, bolster biodiversity, attract native invertebrates, and improve soil health. The native beds also reduce labor and noise pollution associated with mowing and other turf maintenance activities. Eliminating these unusable turf areas also allows us to focus on large, usable turf that can be used by the university community.

Our Pollinator Gardening program involves rehabilitating aging landscape beds with native flowering shrubs and perennials that provide food and forage for birds and invertebrates. These beds are strategically placed throughout campus to create a greenway, allowing pollinators to move through campus as they forage for pollen.

Our Edible Landscaping program uses annual and perennial edible plant material to create aesthetically pleasing, edible garden beds throughout campus. We grow Rhubarb, Hops, Basil, Peppers, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemongrass, and Pineapple Sage in display beds throughout campus. The edibles are then harvested by the Grounds Department and distributed biweekly to the university community during our Herb Giveaways.

Our campus is also Pesticide-Free, allowing for unrestricted use and enjoyment of the university community. This year we began a beneficial insect program to create native populations of beneficial insects to combat common plant pests such as aphids, scale insects, and mites. This program will continue to expand over the coming years as we gather data and begin to find the most effective methods of biologic control for plant pathogens. Not applying pesticides also helps to bolster our efforts to increase biodiversity and create an edible landscape.

The Tenets of Xeriscaping serve as a framework for all of our plantings on campus. Basically, Xeriscaping entails planting the right plant in the right place. By identifying microclimates and choosing site appropriate plant material, we can reduce water usage, improve stormwater infiltration, increase aesthetic appeal, and reduce labor. All of these results are extremely beneficial to our Grounds Management program and the campus ecosystem.

Overall, sustainability is the cornerstone of our Landscape Management philosophy. Our goal is to create a living, regenerative ecosystem on our urban campus. This goal is only able to be accomplished through prudent, environmentally responsible landscaping.

A brief description of how the institution protects and uses existing vegetation, uses native and ecologically appropriate plants, and controls and manages invasive species:

GW released a groundbreaking Ecosystems Enhancement Plan in Spring 2012. This plan includes targets and goals for increasing and enhancing biodiversity on campus. GW is committed to enhancing the biological richness/diversity of the campus and is targeting to create design guidelines around outdoor space that are habitat friendly and promote non-invasive plants. The university plans to;
1) Conduct a habitat assessment (through classes)
2) Encourage native/adaptive/non-invasive/drought-resistant plantings and pro-habitat landscaping practices using the following criteria for plantings - appearance, adaptability, security and survivability
3) Partner with local NGOs to raise awareness about local urban ecosystems, indigenous species and preservation tactics. (E.g. Casey Trees)
4) Reduce the number of annuals planted
5) Place more bird houses around campus
6) Encourage use of systemic and pre-emergent pesticides
7) Encourage use of natural predators to manage pests
8) Connect campuses to green ways within the region
The GW Office of Sustainability works closely with the GW Grounds team on enhancing the sustainability of the landscaping on campus. At the time of submission the Office is working with stakeholders on campus to draft a grounds policy to layout a framework for plant selection. This policy aside, the Grounds Team is very attune to using native and adaptive plants on campus already, and often prioritizes them over invasive species. In addition, in conjunction with a GW student and apiarist, the team planted pollinator friendly plants on campus during Earth Week designed to help provide additional food for the apiaries on campus.

A brief description of the institution’s landscape materials management and waste minimization policies and practices:

On-site composting is currently performed in two locations on the main campus. The first location is behind 2109 F Street where two composters are used for grass clippings and leaves from the surrounding green space. The second location is the on-site community garden near Ross Hall where a composter is used for the garden waste. In addition, we have installed a 30-yard compactor for landscape waste.

A brief description of the institution’s organic soils management practices:

Conserving and improving soil health on campus is a necessary step when creating a sustainable landscape. Our soils are tested periodically to ensure proper pH, CEC, and nutrient content to promote vigorous plant growth, stop unneeded fertilization, and inhibit the leaching of nutrients such as Phosphorus into runoff water. These tests are essential to ensure that environmentally damaging nutrients are not entering the sewer system during large scale storm events.

Organic matter is incorporated into the soil to reduce compaction and improve soil health in turf areas and landscape beds. Using organic material in lieu of conventional turf fertilizers reduces harmful runoff and creates an environment for beneficial soil fungi and bacteria to thrive. These beneficial fungi and bacteria increase the soils ability to hold plant available nutrients and sequester harmful compounds from leaching into the groundwater.

The majority of our soil on campus is located in planting beds adjacent to buildings, and was brought to campus during construction. This creates a relatively uniform soil profile throughout campus, which is beneficial to our soil management program, but also results in compaction and poor soil composition due to the incorporation of backfill. To address this issue, we once again must incorporate organic matter into the soil to create a naturally balanced and beneficial root zone for plant material. Proper soil management is the cornerstone of a sustainable campus landscape and has profound effects on plant and ecosystem health.

A brief description of the institution’s use of environmentally preferable materials in landscaping and grounds management:

To attain our goal of creating a regenerative, sustainable landscape on campus, we make every effort to use environmentally preferable materials in all landscaping projects. These include native plants, locally sourced plant material, reusable/recyclable packaging material, permeable pavers, rain barrels, weather sensing irrigation controllers, biologic controls for plant pathogens, and Low Impact Development (LID) procedures on all new construction projects.
Our native plants are all locally sourced, and the pots are reused by the Horticulturist to propagate and divide seedlings and cuttings to increase plant populations on campus. By cultivating and propagating plant material from campus, we are increasing biodiversity and genetic diversity in our plant populations.

Our IPM program, which includes beneficial insect releases, has eliminated the need for pesticides on campus. This program will become more and more effective as further research is done to identify the best times for releases and monitoring the beneficial insect populations existing on campus. This program also goes hand in hand with our efforts to increase biodiversity and native invertebrate populations on campus.

The university has made a commitment to attain at a minimum LEED Silver certification on all new construction projects on campus. These sites all feature permeable pavers, drip irrigation, and other LID features to manage stormwater runoff and reduce the environmental impact of the site. Square 80, our SITES Sustainable Landscape also features a large underground cistern powered irrigation system which captures and reuses all rainwater on the site. This commitment to sustainable development also results in a large number of green roofs on campus to save energy and insulate the buildings.

Large amount of biomass and other landscape debris are disposed of through Recycled Green. We collect all of our organic landscape waste and put it in a specific dumpster which is collected and composted by Recycled Green. This prevents the damaging side effects of disposing organic material in a conventional waste stream. All of the nutrients inside of the plant material are reused in compost, as opposed to leaching into the groundwater as they decompose in a landfill.

The majority of irrigation on campus is done by hand, but we have begun to retrofit our existing conventional irrigation systems with smart controllers and low volume rotor head sprinklers to avoid water waste. The smart controllers monitor weather conditions, rainfall, and wind to increase, decrease, or eliminate watering cycles on a given day. Overall these irrigation improvements have created a very positive effect and eliminated problems, such as overspray onto pedestrians on windy days and systems running during rain storms.

A brief description of how the institution restores and/or maintains the integrity of the natural hydrology of the campus:

Restoring and protecting the natural hydrologic cycles on campus is an intrinsic part of our sustainable grounds maintenance program. Expansion and construction on an urban campus tend to decrease permeable surfaces and have a detrimental effect on how water moves through the ecosystem. Our commitment to environmentally conscious expansion includes the use of permeable paving material, green roofs, rain barrels, and native plantings to increase rainwater infiltration and reduce nonpoint source pollutants from entering the Potomac Watershed.

Permeable pavers are used throughout campus and serve to create areas for public use and enjoyment without causing a spike in effective imperviousness and disruption to the natural hydrology of the ecosystem. These pavers reduce sheet flow during large rain events and allow the water to infiltrate into the groundwater or be collected for irrigation use. In combination with our vegetated rooftops and cistern powered irrigation systems, the university is capturing and utilizing rainwater to improve aesthetics, reduce runoff, and protect adjacent watersheds.

Native, site appropriate plant material is used throughout campus to improve water percolation through landscape beds. The roots of these plants push through the soil and create a healthy rhizosphere, which increases beneficial soil organisms and battles compaction. A thriving rhizosphere also promotes better plant health and creates a living filter for nonpoint source pollutants that can leach through normal landscaping beds.

Our sustainable landscape management practices are all linked together by our goal of creating a living, regenerative, ecosystem on campus. Protecting naturally occurring biologic cycles is not only beneficial to the environment, it also results in thriving, aesthetically pleasing landscape beds. Through prudent planning and an understanding of ecosystem interactions, we are able to create a usable, beautiful, and sustainable campus landscape for generations of future students and community members.

A brief description of how the institution reduces the environmental impacts of snow and ice removal (if applicable):

When absolutely necessary, and when human safety is in question, GW applies Landscapers Choice with Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). CMA is an alternative deicer that has fewer environmental impacts than road salt.

A brief description of any certified and/or protected areas:

Joining only 30 other projects in the world, George Washington University's Square 80 officially received recognition on February 4th as a Certified Sustainable Sites (SITES™) project.

The Square 80 courtyard replaces an existing parking lot and service alleys with an urban plaza, expansive lawn, ornamental tree grove, extensive pedestrian network and an outdoor classroom for GW's new Sustainable Landscape program. Utilizing multiple Low Impact Development (LID) techniques, 90% of on-site stormwater runoff is retained. Sustainable project elements include: biofiltration planters, native plant material, pervious pavers, cisterns and rain barrel to capture overflow water and roof top rainwater for irrigation purposes and to use in the recycled sculptural water feature. Finally, the design includes the use of a rain garden and bioswale filtration in between the two residence halls.

Is the institution recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA program (if applicable)?:

The website URL where information about the institution’s sustainable landscape management programs and practices is available:

The 7.5 acres managed through a sustainable grounds program is exclusive to the downtown Foggy Bottom campus. The remaining campuses, VSTC and MVC will be transitioning to the sustainable management approach over the course of 2015.

Of the 200 acres of the total campus area, the roughly 67 acres unaccounted for in the above calculatios can be attributed to hardscapes, artificial turf fields, and outdoor sport courts.

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.