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

STARS v2.1

Pennsylvania State University
OP-9: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 2.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total campus area (i.e. the total amount of land within the institutional boundary):
8,738 Acres

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds:
Area (double-counting is not allowed)
Area managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that uses a four-tiered approach 7,835 Acres
Area managed in accordance with an organic land care standard or sustainable landscape management program that has eliminated the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in favor of ecologically preferable materials 0 Acres
Area managed using conventional landscape management practices (which may include some IPM principles or techniques) 0 Acres
Total area of managed grounds 7,835 Acres

A brief description of any land excluded from the area of managed grounds (e.g. the footprint of buildings and impervious surfaces, experimental agricultural land, areas that are not regularly managed or maintained):

Managed acreage was computed as total campus acreage, minus impervious (the building footprint, roads, sidewalks/walkways, and parking lots, etc)


Percentage of grounds managed in accordance with an IPM program:
100

A copy of the IPM plan or program:
A brief description of the IPM program:

See file above.


Percentage of grounds managed in accordance with an organic program:
0

A brief description of the organic land standard or landscape management program that has eliminated the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in favor of ecologically preferable materials:

Organic management practices are used in Hort Woods, a remnant wood lot that has been designated as a Heritage Tree Grove, and in some portions of the Arboretum.


A brief description of the institution's approach to plant stewardship:

Alhough the use of native plant species in landscaping is not prioritized across the entire university, there are efforts to prioritize sustainable behaviors in landscaping through reducing water usage, using soils made from natural composting methods on campus, etc. In addition, there are efforts for certain areas of campus to be dominated by native species. For example, the University's Office of the Physical Plant has recently made an effort to remove invasive species from an area called Hort Woods, in North Campus, and began reintroducing native plant-life in the area. The Arboretum Ecological Restoration Group organizes work sessions in which volunteers help to stop the spread of nonnative shrubs such as honeysuckle, privet, and multiflora rose in the understory of the Hartley Wood, an historic woodlot in the Arboretum. These efforts have now been extended into other areas of the Arboretum in Big Hollow.

Penn State has conducted an inventory of trees on its University Park campus, and has set forth a Physical Plant policy to "identify, acknowledge, and protect" irreplaceable trees on campus. To that end, "Heritage Trees" and "Heritage Tree Groves" have been designated; these are defined as trees/groves with "exceptional historical, cultural, and/or aesthetic value because of their age or their association with an important event/person". Once so designated, Heritage trees/ groves are given special consideration by grounds maintenance staff to ensure that they are protected. More information about Penn State's trees can be found here: http://www.lorax.psu.edu/


A brief description of the institution's approach to hydrology and water use:

The University's storm water program promotes the use of conservation design practices that preserve and use natural critical hydrologic areas to minimize the impact on the environment. Penn State monitors more than two dozen storm water facilities continuously and makes changes or improvements to them as required. The University is always installing new and innovative facilities to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of runoff from its campuses.

The University uses bioretention as a method of treating storm water by pooling water on the surface and allowing filtering and settling of suspended solids and sediment at the mulch layer, prior to entering the plant/soil/microbe complex media for infiltration and pollutant removal. Rain gardens or bioretention techniques are used to accomplish water quality improvement and water quantity reduction.

The UP campus currently has six buildings with green roofs: the Forestry Building, the vegetable cellar, the Dickinson School of Law, the Health Services Building, the Millennium Science Complex, and the HUB student union. The Penn State Center for Green Roof Research in the College of Agricultural Sciences is located on the UP campus.

A Drought Contingency Plan has been developed by the Office of Physical Plant. The plan outlines steps to take under increasing drought pressure as conditions move from drought watch, to drought warning, to drought emergency.


A brief description of the institution's approach to materials management and waste minimization (e.g. composting and/or mulching on-site waste):

Leaves, grass clippings, plant debris, brush and logs are collected from campus landscape maintenance. The leaves and plant debris are composted and the brush and logs are ground and manufactured as mulch. The mulch and compost is used in campus landscape maintenance and for research projects; any excess compost is sold to the public.

The wood from Elm trees removed on campus due to disease or failing health is salvaged and repurposed into furniture and other products that are sold. OPP partners with the Alumni Association on this project. It results in a much higher value reuse of the wood than converting it to mulch. Proceeds from the sale of products are split between OPP and the Alumni Association. OPP’s share goes to the Tree Replacement Endowment which is used to purchase and plant new trees on campus.


A brief description of the institution's approach to energy-efficient landscape design:

Penn State has a comprehensive landscaping design strategy. Design techniques include:
Planting trees for the purpose of providing shade, planting windbreaks to slow winds near buildings, green roofs and minimizing paved areas. On-campus composting and chipping is utilized to reduce greenwaste hauling. Stock is purchased from local growers as appropriate to minimize energy used for transportation.


A brief description of other sustainable landscape management practices employed by the institution (e.g. use of environmentally preferable landscaping materials, initiatives to reduce the impacts of ice and snow removal, wildfire prevention):

The Office of Physical Plant exercises judgment when applying salt for winter deicing and anti-icing materials in an effort to provide for public safety, yet considers the environmental impacts of the materials used. Currently most materials used are granular. Discretion is used in only applying these materials at the proper times to gain the optimal impact, using the least possible material. Training occurs annually to assure that proper amounts are applied for proper coverage patterns, avoiding over-application. Mechanical spreaders are calibrated annually, and with the large trucks used for roads and parking lots, liquid brine is sprayed on the salt as it crosses the spinner for spreading on the surface. This reduces bounce of the salt, keeping it on the hard surfaces, and enhances the melting capability of the rock salt, allowing less to be used than in dry granular applications in past years. OPP has switched from rotary spreaders to drop spreaders on sidewalks and walk ways to better control application, as well as reduce the amount of product that moves from application site.

NAAC (sodium acetate) is used on parking structures to reduce exposure to corrosion, but it also had the environmental benefit of better properties to biodegrade, and is considered relatively harmless to aquatic life.

OPP is switching to the use of brine as a fully liquid application. Conversion is also taking place to a liquid application for roads and parking lots to provide more controlled application to the target surfaces, again reducing total use of salts, and corresponding impact to plant growth and ground water. We currently have 1 road and 4 sidewalk brine applicators with 2 more of each on order.

Landscape maintenance has started to use electric hand held power equipment (weed whackers, blowers, trimmers, etc.) as well as larger mowers in its operation, reducing noise and pollution. These batteries will be charged using solar panels reducing the electric demand. They are also replacing gas carts with electric vehicles when applicable. Currently 4 have been replaced with more scheduled.


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.