Log In
  • 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 Silver
Overall Score 55.50
Liaison Alistair Hall
Submission Date July 22, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Vassar College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.60 / 4.00 Alistair Hall
Sustainability Assistant
Dean of Strategic Planning
"---" 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 Yes
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance No
Diversity & Affordability No
Health, Wellbeing & Work No
Investment No
Public Engagement No
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:

The College Committee on Sustainability makes the campus' annual GHG data available for professors, and has been used by sustainability interns and students doing independent study courses. An Environmental Economics course, created the methodology we use for calculating the GHG emissions associated with JYA travel.


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:

In Fall 2012, Introduction to Environmental Studies had group projects that focused on campus sustainability issues. One group of students researched what the energy and environmental impact of leaving the lights on in academic buildings overnight was. Their study led to a Resource Conservation Fund proposal that called for the installation of appropriate signage and/or occupancy sensors for classrooms in key buildings.


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:

The Environmental Studies Senior Seminar has regularly focused on 'food issues' as a theme for the semester. In Fall 2013, the Senior Seminar researched 'the Vassar Food System,' conducting meetings with campus stakeholders, local farmers, campus dining staff and created a proposal for expanding local food options and increasing education and engagement among first year students on where their food comes from.


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 College Committee on Sustainability makes monthly campus energy data available to professors and students for use in classes and independent studies. In Spring 2013, students in an independent study created an outdoor lighting inventory of the campus to strengthen the argument for upgrading our system to LEDs, and wrote a formal recommendation for us to pursue better building sub-metering technology so that more site specific data can be available for use.


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:

The Biology, Environmental Studies, and Earth Science departments regularly utilize the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve for course work on ecology, soil science, and plant physiology. Such course work has led to theses and papers on deer management, the potential impacts of emerald ash borer, and ecological succession.

In Fall 2013, a Conservation Biology course had students research particular areas of campus to investigate how they could be planting sites for certain species of conservation concern. As per a students final proposal, our health services building is now the site of a naturalized 'no-mow' zone and healing garden, planted with native plants and flowers.


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:

As part of a larger independent study course in Spring 2013 on campus planning, 3 students worked with our Purchasing department to learn more about common practices in the field and where there might be opportunities for improvement. As part of the final write up, they recommended that environmental criteria be more formally defined and valued in the procurement process. With these recommendations in mind, the College made the switch to all-natural hand soap and 100% recycled paper towels across campus in the Summer of 2013.


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:

In Spring 2013, 2 students participated in an independent study on campus planning that looked at transportation issues on campus, including researching the make up of our car fleet, public transit, and biking. They wrote a formal summary of their findings and made recommendations as to how biking could be improved on campus. From their work, additional bike racks were installed in Summer 2013 by Main Building, the College Center, Rockefeller Hall, and a path to a Senior Housing area was substantially widened.


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:

Numerous Professors have partnered with Vassar Sustainability to conduct waste audits in class with their students. An Anthropology professor used it to explain how anthropology is the study of the trash of ancient cultures, and to ask the question: what could we learn for 'Vassar's trash.' Each of these small scale waste audits add to our knowledge of how the campus waste stream does or doesn't work: what is/isn't getting recycled, where is the contamination, what is compostable, etc.


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:

The Environmental Research Post-Grad Collins Fellow manages the Casperkill and Fonteynkill water quality research efforts of the College. The Fellow works with professors and students, particularly in Intro to Environmental Studies, to provide data and create labs that study water quality in the 2 streams that run through campus.

Recent Senior Theses on campus water quality have led to the introduction of rain gardens in Senior Housing areas, a sediment study of Sunset Lake, and a grant funded project to plant 1100 trees as tributary buffers along 2 streams on the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve.


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:
---

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:
---

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:
---

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:
---

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 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.