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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 74.63
Liaison Moira Hafer
Submission Date July 30, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Stanford University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Moira Hafer
Sustainability Specialist
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing the campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in the following areas?:
Yes or No
Air & Climate Yes
Buildings Yes
Dining Services/Food Yes
Energy Yes
Grounds Yes
Purchasing No
+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability No
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Other No

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Air & Climate and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI), which will reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by the end of 2016, is an example of campus operations serving as a living laboratory for impact on air and climate. The SESI program began with the development of the Energy and Climate Plan in 2009, which was a high-priority study that incorporated various industry and faculty peer reviews from inception to approval. SESI studies have also engaged graduate student researchers to verify models and assist with other assessments. For instance, the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management (SEM) partnered with the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project, a student group, to carry out studies on the campus solar potential. Additionally, since the new Central Energy Facility came online in April 2015, staff in the Department of Sustainability & Energy Management have provided tours for many classes, student groups and faculty groups, among others, to encourage hands-on learning through this innovative energy system. In fact, many of the spaces within the new Central Energy Facility were built with the concept of campus as a living laboratory in mind, such as amphitheater-style outdoor seating, large windows for easy viewing of the machinery, color-coded piping symbolizing the hot water and cold water supply and return loops, informational signage offering a self-guided tour, and new conference rooms available for use by any campus group. For more information, visit: http://sustainable.stanford.edu/sesi.

+ Date Revised: Dec. 2, 2015

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Buildings and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) is an academic research center for Virtual Design and Construction of Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry projects. The Center supports exceptionally reliable engineering and management practices to plan, design, construct and operate sustainable facilities. To accomplish these objectives, CIFE brings together faculty members, researchers, students, and industry participants from diverse domains, such as civil engineering, architecture, computer science, business, and law. CIFE also regularly interacts with Stanford’s Facilities Energy Management (FEM) team within the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management (SEM). FEM team members serve as guest speakers for CIFE courses, help review student projects and provide feedback on research needs regarding the operation of high-performance buildings. Please visit http://cife.stanford.edu/

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Dining Services/Food and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Stanford Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) hires student interns to manage Stanford Dining Hall Gardens that are an integral part of R&DE’s Sustainable Food education and outreach program. Each student intern manages one of the dozen campus gardens across campus for the entire duration of the academic year, growing and providing organic produce to the Stanford Dining Halls and reporting to the Sustainable Food Program Manager. Throughout this internship, these student interns learn not only sustainable farming/gardening practices, but also accountability and time management skills. Finally, these student interns have the opportunity to work on various other Sustainable Food Program projects as well in order to learn and expand on the fundamentals of organic gardening, to meet and work with other people interested in sustainable food, and to be involved in educational and community outreach events. Visit http://www.stanford.edu/dept/rde/cgi-bin/drupal/dining/node/215

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Energy and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The Office of Sustainability works with the Woods Institute for the Environment to organize a class, last offered in Winter Quarter 2012, entitled “Creating a Green Student Workforce to Help Implement Stanford’s Sustainability Vision.” The class is jointly offered through the Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Systems departments and focuses on practical training on energy efficiency and conservation measures for students to implement across campus. The course description reads, “Examination of program-based local actions that promote resource conservation and an educational environment for sustainability. Examination of building-level actions that contribute to conservation, lower utility costs, and generate understanding of sustainability consistent with Stanford's commitment to sustainability as a core value. Overview of operational sustainability including energy, water, buildings, waste, and food systems. Practical training to enable students to become sustainability coordinators for their dorms or academic units.” An example of a class project in 2012 was to audit and install smart power strips and programmable timers in the Blume Earthquake Center on campus.

The Office of Sustainability also leads a training entitled “Sustainable Office Spaces” that is open to students, staff and faculty that trains attendees on energy efficiency measures that they can take in their offices, workspaces, or dorms. This training is offered twice each fall as part of the university’s Cardinal Green Buildings campaign. For more information on this training, visit: http://sustainable.stanford.edu/trainings.

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Grounds and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Stanford engages students in its landscape and grounds in several ways. First, Stanford offers several classes at the Stanford Community Farm, which is located on campus. For instance, in “Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture,” offered through the Earth Systems and Environmental Earth Systems Sciences departments, students engage in field-based training in ecologically sound agricultural practices at the Stanford Community Farm. Projects include working with a team to apply sustainable farming techniques to an independent section of the farm, with each team held accountable for the crops it grows. The food produced through this class is regularly donated to Stanford Dining, where it is used in meal production in dining halls.

Secondly, Stanford constructed teaching gardens in the recently completed Science and Engineering Quad. These gardens mirror the landscaping of Stanford’s original main quad but were designed specifically as teaching gardens for the interdisciplinary staff residing in each of the four quad buildings to utilize during their classes. Each of the four gardens has a different theme: plants used for dyes, medicinal plants, local and drought tolerant plants, and plants traditionally used by the Ohlone tribe in the Bay Area.

Finally, Stanford’s Building and Grounds Maintenance department constructed a Waterwise Demonstration Garden on campus that serves as an example for students and local residents of how to employ alternatives to thirsty residential landscapes. It also has a water meter on display to illustrate its low water consumption and showcases drip irrigation and California native plants. More information on the Waterwise garden is available here: http://bgm.stanford.edu/groups/grounds/special/waterwise

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Purchasing and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The One Less, Save More campaign conducted by the Office of Sustainability made it easy and rewarding for employees to purchase goods and services in ways that minimize negative impacts on the environment. Stanford's Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines outline the university's criteria for sustainable purchasing, and the Office of Sustainability developed this campaign to augment these guidelines. The campaign suggested three ways for employees to contribute to sustainable purchasing: (1) consider consuming less; (2) consider consolidating orders; and (3) choose reusable products and/or high recycled content products from SmartMart (Stanford's online purchasing platform). The campaign asked employees to get involved by making a pledge, choosing environmentally-friendly paper, and consolidating and reducing departmental orders. By providing employees with the tools to make a difference in their purchasing behaviors, Stanford sets a positive example for students and other campus stakeholders. Visit http://sustainable.stanford.edu/be_cardinal_green_smartbuys

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Transportation and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

To reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, Stanford launched Capri (Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives) in April 2012 as a collaborative effort between Stanford researchers and Stanford’s Department of Parking and Transportation. This innovative research pilot project uses radio-frequency identification technology to track when participating commuters enter and exit campus and reward off-peak commutes. The project, led by Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professor Balaji Prabhakar, has also benefited from the input of graduate student researchers. Visit http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/april/traffic-incentive-study-040212.html

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Waste and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Stanford’s Recycling Center, PSSI, worked with several student interns over the course of the 2013-2014 academic year to improve waste and recycling at Stanford. Student interns work in the areas of café composting, video marketing, outreach, zero waste, and planning and execution of Recyclemania, a national recycling competition among schools in higher education. All interns gained experience in the field of waste reduction, recycling and composting in addition to a deeper understanding of the challenges of achieving a sustainable zero waste society. Visit http://sustainable.stanford.edu/internships

In addition, PSSI is currently working with graduate students from the Institute of Design at Stanford (the d.school) to research the possibility of selling animal feed created through a proprietary food waste program to local farms.

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Water and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

On March 25, 2014, Stanford broke ground on a new wastewater facility entitled the William and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center. The facility is a collaborative effort among university water resource specialists in the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management (SEM) and faculty researchers from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Stanford-led Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt). Faculty and student researchers will use the facility to test promising technologies for both recovery of clean water and energy from wastewater. Visit http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/march/water-recovery-facility-032414.html

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Coordination, Planning & Governance and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

In 2013, Stanford’s Office of Sustainability was tasked with a large coordination and planning effort revolving around the structure of its year-round sustainability campaigns. The structure of these sustainability promotions needed to be reevaluated in order to increase the overall visibility of sustainability on campus and streamline the participation process for the campus community. In order to plan for a new campaign structure, it was necessary to learn what types of incentives were most appealing to students. To study this, a student intern in the Office of Sustainability prepared and distributed a survey for students to determine what types of rewards motivated them most, from gift cards to apparel to cash rewards. After receiving a couple hundred responses, the student intern analyzed the results and submitted recommendations to the Office of Sustainability. Based on the positive outcome of this student’s work, she then helped the Office of Sustainability reorganize the incentive structure for sustainability campaigns, resulting in a high level of success of subsequent campaigns, such as the Cardinal Green Buildings campaign in Fall 2013 and the Recyclemania competition in Winter 2014.

Additionally, to aid in planning for Stanford’s response to the California drought in 2014, a team of graduate students worked with Residential & Dining Enterprises staff to conduct a study of the effectiveness of various types of signage in promoting the washing of full loads of laundry in Stanford’s undergraduate laundry rooms. This study provided results that will be incorporated into R&DE’s overarching water conservation strategies and plan in the 2014-15 academic year.

Finally, elected students serve on the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) committee, which prepares policy and program recommendations to advance and implement sustainability practices on campus. As with all members of SWG, these students are asked to provide input into key sustainability challenges on campus and are tasked with action items from the committee when appropriate. Visit http://sustainable.stanford.edu/governance

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Diversity & Affordability and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Health, Wellbeing & Work and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

BeWell at Stanford serves as the overarching health and wellness resource for Stanford University. By facilitating a culture of wellness at Stanford, BeWell encourages individuals, departments and families to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviors. The program begins with the Stanford Health and Lifestyle Assessment, an online health risk assessment for employees. Employees then go through a wellness screening and advising session, where they compile a wellness plan. Then, employees are able to accrue "berries" for attending workshops and performing other activities that promote healthy behaviors. Employees receive incentives both after completing the wellness profile after accruing 6 berries in a calendar year.

Stanford’s BeWell program launched a wellness program for students on October 1, 2013 to expand upon the wellness program it has offered to employees since 2008. As one example of student involvement in this program, BeWell developed a new online student wellness magazine called Student Health 101, which features articles written by Stanford students and staff. Visit https://bewell.stanford.edu/ppl/students

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Investment and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Stanford’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIR-L) contains two undergraduate student members and two graduate student members. These students contribute to all of the committee’s activities and are elected by the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). Along with other committee members, student responsibilities include (1) developing and/or amending core social issue policy statements and proxy voting guidelines for shareholder resolutions; (2) receiving, reviewing, and providing analysis on Requests for Reviews and making recommendations to Stanford University’s President and Board of Trustees on future action; (3) Researching and presenting written reports and providing background information in support of the Panel’s action recommendations; and (4) Monitoring, researching, and reporting on issues and trends in Investment Responsibility. For example, in May 2014, acting on a recommendation of Stanford's APIR-L, the Board of Trustees announced that Stanford will not make direct investments in coal mining companies. The Board of Trustees concurred with the advisory panel that divesting from coal is consistent with the university's Statement on Investment Responsibility given the current availability of alternatives to coal that have less harmful environmental impacts.

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Public Engagement and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Stanford offers many courses that transform the campus into a living laboratory for public engagement. For instance, the course Sustainable Cities, offered through the Earth Systems and Urban Studies departments, exposes students to sustainability concepts and urban planning as a tool for determining sustainable outcomes in the Bay Area. The course focuses on the relationship of land use and transportation planning to housing and employment patterns, mobility, public health, and social equity. Topics include government initiatives to counteract urban sprawl and promote smart growth and livability, political realities of organizing and building coalitions around sustainability goals, and increasing opportunities for low-income and communities of color to achieve sustainability outcomes. Students participate in team-based projects in collaboration with local community partners and take part in significant off-site fieldwork. In the past five years, Stanford students have completed 23 projects for the Sustainable Cities class in collaboration with Bay Area non-profit organizations and government agencies, including Redwood City, the SF Bicycle Coalition, Friends of Caltrain, the San Mateo County Health Department, and many others.

+ Date Revised: Nov. 5, 2014

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory in Other areas and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:

The attached URL links to a report on President Hennessy's address to the Academic Council in April 2014. The address focused on sustainability at Stanford and featured a panel of four campus sustainability experts: Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences; Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost of Residential and Dining Enterprises; Joseph Stagner, executive director of sustainability and energy management; and Fahmida Ahmed, associate director of sustainability and energy management. Hennessy's remarks--as well as the brief presentations by each panelist--featured the sustainability initiatives at Stanford that truly make the campus a living laboratory.


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.