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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 Bronze
Overall Score 43.94
Liaison Lisa Kawai
Submission Date June 5, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Soka University of America
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 M. Robert Hamersley
PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology
Environmental Studies
"---" 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:

An independent study examined all of the STARS credits and worked with administration, staff, and faculty to conduct a baseline assessment of how many points the university could achieve. Each student was responsible for a selection of credits from academics, operations, engagement and planning and administration, and students collected data to fill out the reporter forms. As a final project, each student submitted a report including the rationale behind each credit, the past and present activities of the university pertaining to that credit, and research on what steps the university could take to achieve full points in that credit.

Specific to Air and Climate, students were given the opportunity to learn what creating a greenhouse gas inventory would entail, through investigating tools such as the CarbonMap calculator and analyzing the methodology of other universities through reading their annual reports or greenhouse gas inventory documents.


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:

As part of both the Green SUA Learning Cluster and the STARS Independent Study, students learned about LEED certification standards and general concepts in sustainable building design. The head of Facilities gave students a tour the HVAC unit underneath the school cafeteria as well as the solar panel green roof above the Performing Arts Center. Students learned the basics of heating and cooling systems, how batteries can store energy to use during peak load periods, the benefits and challenges of using and storing energy from solar panels, and the purpose of having permeable surfaces amidst hardscaped environments.


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:

As part of the Green SUA Learning Cluster, students were tasked with studying the Operations criteria of the STARS manual, as well as synthesizing information from a student-led energy audit and current energy data to come up with a preliminary assessment of institutional energy consumption. One student focused on OP5, Building Energy Consumption, and was able to comb through spreadsheets from facilities and detect any gaps or errors in the data. Through this process, the student procured an estimated score that Soka University could obtain for OP5.


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:

As part of examining the Food and Dining credits of STARS, students in the Green SUA learning cluster not only studied the credit rationale and criteria in the manual, but they also began a conversation with the managers and staff of Bon Appetit, the catering service provider for our university. During this three week long seminar class, students learned and gathered campus-specific information about local food purchasing practices, third party sustainable certification, pre- and post-consumer waste diversion methods, and efforts to inform students about responsible and healthy food choices. This process of learning and data collection was continued through the STARS Independent Study.


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:

In the Sustainable Agriculture course, students use the on-campus Soka Instructional Garden as a laboratory for applied learning about organic agriculture and gardening.


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:

In the Learning Cluster, students visited Pomona College and met the head of the Sustainability Office, who discussed principles of life cycle analysis and how to collect data from different departments regarding purchases. Students in the independent study worked directly with staff at Soka University to gather information about paper and electronics purchasing policies and practices.


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:

As part of the STARS Independent Study, students learned about some of the challenges involved in making transportation on campus more sustainable, including purchasing decisions for the vehicles used in our campus fleet. Being an entirely residential campus with a small student population, Soka has a unique context in which to examine potential for expanding sustainable transportation on campus.


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:

During the Learning Cluster and Independent Study, students studied the university's Annual Sustainability Report, which contained information about the school's waste diversion from the previous year. They also met with the Campus Sustainability Committee and spoke with the manager of dining and food services about composting and other waste diversion strategies used in the cafeteria.


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:

For their senior capstone, one student conducted a thorough water audit on campus, measuring water flow in a sampling of student dorm rooms, analyzing data spreadsheets from facilities, problem-solving through gaps and errors in existing data, and lastly, detailing specific suggestions on how to improve water conservation on campus. Research findings and suggestions were crafted into a presentation for the Campus Sustainability Committee at the end of the year.


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:

The first field trip experience in the Green SUA Learning Cluster was to participate in a Campus Sustainability Committee meeting. All students in this class were given the chance to directly communicate and ask questions pertaining to campus sustainability. Topics discussed during that meeting include the role of the Board of Trustees, how campus administration communicates with the Board, and what students can do if they have concerns which need to be brought up to the Board.


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:

Graduate students in the Master's program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change have used the university as a setting for their research. Previous theses have studied topics in diversity and social policy in the context of Soka University and/or Soka education in a liberal arts setting.


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:

In the learning cluster, students learned basic concepts behind sustainable investment, including ESG factors (environmental, social, governance), as well as different strategies employed by universities moving towards fossil fuel divestment, such as green revolving funds. The STARS criteria for investment and finance were studied in depth.


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:

Students learned about public engagement through assessing our institution's performance in areas such as community service and outreach campaigns, as well as drawing inspiration from what other STARS accredited universities have done in areas such as sustainability literacy and student orientation.


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:

Students learned about wellbeing and work through studying the criteria of OP 11-14, learning about concepts such as living wage, researching the university's worker's compensation and benefit policies, and communicating with Human Resources to gather information for the credit report.


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)?:
No

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:
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The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
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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.