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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 67.88
Liaison Mary Easterling
Submission Date Sept. 14, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Pennsylvania State University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Air & Climate:

In coordination with the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, students in GEOG 494 (Research Project in Geography) and EGEE 495 (Energy and Sustainability Policy Internship) developed a method to calculate greenhouse gas emissions from commuting in the State College area. Institutional partners were the State College Borough and Penn State Office of Physical Plant. The project utilized Penn State specific data such as CATA transportation miles and population changes at University Park. The method they developed is replicable at other Penn State campuses.

In April 2014 a group of Penn State faculty, staff, and students committed to responding to the threat of climate change convened on the University Park campus for a workshop entitled "Penn State's Carbon Emissions: Getting to Zero". The goal was to begin imagining a workable plan to achieve zero effective emissions by 2050. A series of concurrent workshops was held on topics such as "physical plant retrofitting", "promoting emerging technologies for alternative energy and carbon sequestration", and "assessing and changing carbon-intensive practices and cultures". This conference marks the beginning of a living lab-type initiative to address Penn State's greenhouse gas emissions.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Buildings:

Along with a team from the Center for Green Roof Research, Office of Physical Plant (OPP), Student Affairs, and Development and Alumni Relations, a graduate student in horticulture helped with the establishment of a new green roof at the HUB-Robeson Center. A gift from the Class of 2014 and constructed as part of the HUB addition and renovation project, the rooftop opened in summer 2016 as a space for Penn Staters to relax and enjoy nature from the center of campus. http://news.psu.edu/story/430537/2016/10/12/academics/student-uses-technology-study-plants-hub-green-roof

A three-year effort led by the Penn State Smeal College of Business and complemented by Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP) has resulted in the Business Building earning LEED-EB Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. To earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation, facilities must meet requirements across a series of measurements, including: location and transportation, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality, and regional priority credits. Throughout the years-long process, hundreds of students helped gather data. Since the building will need to be recertified every five years to keep its designation, the Business Building will act as a living laboratory.
http://news.psu.edu/story/395361/2016/03/01/strategic-planning/home-penn-state-smeal-earns-leed-eb-certification

An architectural engineering class analyzed the various sustainability building rating systems and recommended the types of changes Penn State should make for their design standards for large renovation projects.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Energy:

The team for the Penn State Operating Station, a project sponsored by the Penn State Institute for Natural Gas Research (INGaR) and spearheaded by Monty Alger, director of the INGaR and professor of chemical engineering, and Sven Bilén, head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP); focused on designing an online, real-time monitoring system that displays the use of sustainable energy at the University Park campus to help lessen Penn State’s carbon footprint. http://news.psu.edu/story/411679/2016/05/23/academics/graduate-students-learn-real-world-problem-solving-through

In 2014, Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP) was awarded a $75,000 grant from the Sustainability Institute’s Reinvention Fund to purchase new 100 percent electric vehicles and build a solar array on campus to power them. Installing fleet and visitor electric vehicle charging stations allows OPP to immediately reduce environmental impact without depending on the relatively “dirty” local power grid. In October 2015, OPP staff, technicians and student volunteers installed the solar array on campus by the Laundry Building. Some of the students that helped plan the assembly gained experience in the RECA (Renewable Energy for Central America) program in Roatán organized by the Penn State NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) Student Chapter.
http://news.psu.edu/story/381242/2015/11/17/campus-life/students-help-install-solar-array-opp-vehicles-operate-zero-fuel

Penn State’s class of 2015 voted to create a solar panel array as its contribution to the University, with overwhelming outside support. In order to address numerous inquiries and suggestions for the final design, the Class Gift Campaign and Office of Physical Plant (OPP) have begun a design competition to involve members of the University community in the process. This open call will allow any member of the University community, including faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, to visualize their own design for the solar panels. Submissions should incorporate a rendering of the design in a proposed location, along with a written description of the design and how it will assist in Penn State’s energy output. http://onwardstate.com/2015/03/03/2015-class-gift-hosts-open-competition-for-solar-panel-designs/#prettyPhoto


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Food & Dining:

Since 2016 Local Foods Night has been held once-per-semester in Redifer Dining Commons, on the University Park campus. This semester's event was unique -- it was the first time that student-grown produce has been served in campus dining halls. The newly formed Student Farm Club (SFC) is providing romaine lettuce for the meal. http://news.psu.edu/story/369823/2015/09/15/campus-life/local-food-night-sept-22-redifer-feature-student-grown-produce

The Lion’s Pantry is a food bank run by Penn State students for Penn State students. It was founded by a group of students hoping to help bring awareness to the issue of food insecurity in the student population — when people lack access, for financial or physical reasons, to nutritious food. It became an official student organization in 2014, and currently works with campus clubs and local grocery stores to donate food and run food drives. Seed funding for the project was provided by the Sustainability Institute's Reinvention Fund http://www.sustainability.psu.edu/reinvention/lions-pantry

The Student Farm at Penn State was established in the spring of 2016. The goals of the farm are to demonstrate how food is grown and to provide hands-on engagement opportunities for students and volunteers to gain skills and knowledge about food production, harvesting, and marketing. During harvest season, Penn State’s Housing and Food Services (HFS) supported the farm by purchasing some of the 10,330 pounds of produce grown to serve in the on-campus dining commons and restaurants. Produce was also purchased by Campus Supported Agriculture (CSA) program members, and 1,000 pounds of produce was donated to community organizations throughout 2016. http://sites.psu.edu/studentfarm/farm/
http://news.psu.edu/story/458229/2017/03/27/it-takes-village-raise-farm

The Student Farm Club and Housing & Food Services host a Local Foods Night each semester in Redifer Dining Commons on the University Park campus. Chefs at Redifer incorporate vegetables grown at the Student Farm and products from other local farms in their dishes for the evening. http://news.psu.edu/story/369823/2015/09/15/campus-life/local-food-night-sept-22-redifer-feature-student-grown-produce


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Grounds:

The student-led Penn State Community Garden club was awarded funding through the Sustainability Institute’s Reinvention Fund to install a pollinator garden. The pollinator garden aims to support native bees and other pollinators by providing a healthy habitat throughout the season. The garden was designed by student leaders, with help from experts in many fields. Construction and maintenance of the pollinator garden was accomplished by Community Garden members. https://sites.google.com/site/peopleplantsandpollinators/

The Student Farm was established in 2016 with a one-acre plot of land committed by the Office of Physical Plant (OPP). Farm Services from the College of Agricultural Sciences spread Penn State compost on the site and staff from the Rock Springs research farm tilled the organic material into the ground. OPP installed water lines and deer fencing, and assisted in the siting of sheds designed and built by College of Arts and Architecture undergraduate students. Interns, club members of the Student Farm and volunteers all tended to the site and harvested the crops, with more than 150 volunteers contributing over 300 hours to farm maintenance.
http://news.psu.edu/story/458229/2017/03/27/it-takes-village-raise-farm


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Purchasing:

A Reinvention Fund student project, Increasing Local Foods at Penn State, conducted research to understand what the barriers are to local food procurement. Also involved in the project were a faculty advisor from the School of Hospitality Management, the Director of Purchasing for Food Services, and the Director of Residential Dining, as well as a local farmer.

The Student Sustainability Advisory Council (SSAC) provides consultation and advice to Penn State administration on sustainability planning, programs, and initiatives. One of their recent recommendations (which has not yet been adopted) is the inclusion of a sustainability metric on purchasing/ procurement RFPs. Several alternative methods for including sustainability were suggested by the students. http://sites.psu.edu/ssac/fiscal/


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Transportation:

The Active Lions Project - led by Kinesiology professor Melissa Bopp with funding by Penn State's Reinvention Fund - aims to promote active transportation to and from campus among Penn State faculty, staff and students. The project team, which includes both grad and undergrad students, is developing a social marketing campaign and accompanying smart phone app to encourage active transportation (i.e. walking and biking) (AT) behavior. http://sustainability.psu.edu/external-spotlight/active-lions-smartphone-app-encourages-healthy-lifestyle

Over a four-year period, a student-driven team, from majors as diverse as the University itself, will design, build, refine and market a hybrid-electric vehicle that closely mimics the steps an actual automaker would take to bring a new product to market. The team’s current mission is to take a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro and re-engineer it from a gas-gulping sports car into a fuel-efficient hybrid — without sacrificing a Camaro’s signature performance characteristics. That means the students will be pairing the car’s traditional engine with an electric motor of their own design.
http://news.psu.edu/story/408733/2016/05/18/academics/penn-state-advanced-vehicle-team-powers-students-road-success


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Waste:

The College of Art & Architecture’s School of Visual Arts has begun an initiative to replace the use of disposable plastic water bottles with student made reuseable ceramic cups for meetings/receptions/conferences. This is the first project in their ZERO WASTE campaign that eventually could impact sustainability practices across Penn State campus.

An team of undergraduate seniors in the Smeal College of Business conducted an economic and sustainability analysis of Penn State's composting program, including its on-site composting facility. The students presented strategic and tactical recommendations for the program to the Office of Physical Plant in April 2017. Results of the study will be used by OPP in making decisions about the future scope and focus of the program. The project is being conducted as part of the Applied Professional Experience Program (APEX) in the Smeal College of Business, where students apply classroom knowledge to actual business challenges.

Students in a Business 242 class analyzed barriers to recycling in residence halls. A class of students in Community, Environment and Development analyzed barriers to recycling in the Penn State student union building (HUB) and found much of the problem emanated from infrastructure problems and confusion from signage.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Water:

Faculty member Heather Gall and her students have been studying aquatic life at Penn State's "living filter", where treated sewage effluent is sprayed onto forest and crop fields as a means of further removing contaminant from the wastewater. The Penn State study is one of the first to attempt to determine the effects of emerging contaminants - such as over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and personal care products - in the temporary water bodies that are critical amphibian breeding sites. Emerging contaminants are not commonly monitored in the environment and often persist in the wastewater. As part of their research, Dr. Gall and her students developed an emerging contaminant footprint calculator, a downloadable spreadsheet that consumers can use to calculate the potential water quality impacts of products they have in their homes. Gall's research, and other studies taking place at the Living Filter grounds, will have an important influence on the development of best management practices and conservation strategies at local, regional, national and global scales.

Penn State art education professor B. Stephen Carpenter II uses inexpensive ceramic filters to combat the water crisis. Carpenter’s creation in response to the global water crisis is Reservoir Studio, a physical studio and conceptual space where participants learn how to make ceramic water filters, and discuss the how’s, why’s and next steps. Inside the studio is a 500 plus-pound filter press that, while capable of producing water filters, is not easily transportable -- especially to communities that are most at risk. In 2017 Reservoir Studio and the Electroactive Materials Characterization Lab (EMCLab) challenged a team of five undergraduate engineering students to make an inexpensive DIY kit with all materials necessary to produce inexpensive, effective colloidal silver and colloidal copper for use in point of use ceramic water filters. The team was also charged with creating an easy to read instructional manual to accompany the DIY kits.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Coordination & Planning:

Development of specific strategies and metrics for Penn State's 2016-2020 Strategic Plan is taking place in a series of committees. A Steering Committee comprised primarily of faculty members is responsible for developing a draft plan for one sustainability-focused priority area, Stewarding Our Planet's Resources. Feedback on the draft plan is being solicited through a public forum, to which faculty, staff and students are invited. This gives students the opportunity to be part of the strategic planning process as well as faculty.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Diversity & Affordability:

In Fall of 2016 Penn State launched "All In at Penn State". "All In" is an ongoing commitment to spotlight the importance of diversity at Penn State, demonstrate the University’s commitment to inclusivity and inspire all members of the community to take an active role in promoting respect and embracing diversity. Students are actively involved in the development of elements of this initiative and to bringing it to life. Students are encouraged to create "All In" events and programs that include promoting inclusion, encouraging civil discourse and challenging all perspectives.

The “World in Conversation Project”, a Center for Public Diplomacy in Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts, relies on student facilitators and the Socratic method to generate candid dialogue on some of today’s most difficult social issues—from race to the Middle East to college drinking culture. World In Conversation grew directly out of SOC 119 (“Race and Ethnic Relations”) in response to the need to bridge deep divides that existed between racial and ethnic groups at Penn State following death threats and the ensuing student takeover of the HUB in 2002.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Investment & Finance:

Students in Dr. Robert Berghage's new course on hydroponics and aquaponics were responsible for setting up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and greenhouse for profit, giving them valuable experience with business and food safety procedures. http://news.psu.edu/story/414931/2016/06/17/academics/technology-helps-gardens-grow-penn-state


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Public Engagement:

There have been numerous opportunities for students to gain experience with public engagement in sustainability through the Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC). This initiative, which is coordinated by Penn State's Sustainability Institute, connects University Park faculty, students, and staff with local communities to address sustainability challenges through an engaged, collaborative effort. Examples of projects conducted through the SCC include Municipal Park Programming & Resident Engagement; State College Borough Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Campaign; Wind and Solar Power Battery Marketing at Music Festivals; Energy Planning in the State College Borough, and many more. For additional information see: http://sustainability.psu.edu/sustainable-communities-collaborative

Penn State Student Farm Club members recently partnered with the region’s sustainable agriculture community by organizing over 30 hours of educational programming about sustainability for elementary school children. The activity was part of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) annual conference, which took place in Feb 2017 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. Children in kindergarten through fifth grade had the opportunity to learn about protecting the environment, sustainable energy, and nutrition, through activities including interactive games, crafts and discussions. http://news.psu.edu/story/450637/2017/02/14/campus-life/student-farm-club-members-teach-youth-sustainability-lessons


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

Beginning in January 2017, the new Penn State Health and Wellness Center will provide University Park employees with high-quality episodic care in a convenient setting. The Center will be staffed with nurse practitioners from the College of Nursing. The innovative collaboration not only benefits Penn State faculty and staff, it also fulfills the College of Nursing’s mission to develop qualified nurse leaders at all levels of practice through integrated programs of nursing education, research, scholarship and outreach. http://news.psu.edu/story/417660/2016/07/25/administration/penn-state-health-and-wellness-center-provide-convenient-care

The Penn State Health Care Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and administrators, has identified areas of opportunity for improved administration and use of health care by the University, to develop a sustainable path for health care and medical provider delivery. The committee provides a framework of strategies for keeping health care cost down, improving employee health and better communicating changes about employee health and health care.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to other areas (e.g. arts & culture or technology)?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to other areas:

Following successful vehicle wraps on some of its fleet vehicles, Penn State Transportation Services was seeking innovative ways to promote its CNG vehicles and sustainability efforts in general. The graphic design students of GD 304 created and presented their designs, with Transportation Services selecting the top three candidates. These designs were then produced and the ‘wrapped’ cars presented at the annual Campus and Community Sustainability Expo.

Headhouse II and eight other College of Agricultural Sciences greenhouses were updated last year with climate-control computer systems, LED lighting, a rooftop weather station and other automated tools. Adding the modern climate-control technology has helped to not only grow healthy plants, but to reduce energy costs and outputs as well. The technology added has made it possible for teaching, learning and research to happen in the greenhouses at a scale that wasn’t possible before. As a group, the 21-student class was responsible for building the hydroponics and aquaponics systems (including the fish tanks), choosing climate settings, and fertilizing, watering, caring for and harvesting their plants.
http://news.psu.edu/story/414931/2016/06/17/academics/technology-helps-gardens-grow-penn-state


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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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.