Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 85.05
Liaison Careen Arsenault
Submission Date March 5, 2020
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Cornell University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Sarah Brylinsky
Sustainability Communications & Integration Maanger
Campus Sustainability Office
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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:

The blueprint for this goal is our award-winning Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP’s strategies bring together students, faculty, and staff on matters of research, education, stewardship and outreach.

The following initiatives are present on Cornell's campus:
-Over 40+ living laboratory projects take place each year across Cornell University's 10 focus areas for sustainability, utilizing campus resources for research and teaching as well as accelerating innovation through use of campus systems, data, and people
-Geothermal systems at the new graduate student Maplewood housing complex are being studied in partnership with a local initiative to promote geothermal, energy efficiency, and the use of smart meters in a long-term study of human behavior and energy efficiency returns with faculty from 3 departments, Energy & Sustainability team members, and student researchers
-Climate Focus Team of the President's Sustainable Campus Committee which facilitates the implementation of initiatives to reduce Cornell's carbon footprint. These include faculty, staff, student working groups developing recommendations for a potential internal carbon charge and offsetting business travel.
- The Environmental Collaborative (ECO) works with Climate Justice Cornell and the 40+ other student organizations focused on sustainability and climate to promote a sustainable, just future and advance policy on climate change on the university, local and national levels
- Teams of students, faculty, and staff are working on targeted priority action areas identified as part of the Climate Action Plan through Working Groups of the President's Sustainable Campus Committee.
-ALS 2000: Leadership for Sustainability is an interdisciplinary course offered every semester with students from across the Institute using residence halls as laboratories for sustainability leadership and behavioral innovation. The course is supported by the American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP), Campus Sustainability Office, Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions (CICSS), Cornell Outdoor Education, and Residential & New Student Programs.


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:

Faculty in the College of Human Ecology have been surveying occupants in various green buildings to understand occupant experiences of green features. These post-occupancy surveys have helped inform infrastructure improvements over time.

A class in the College of Human Ecology, DEA 6250 (Human Dimensions of Sustainable Buildings), conducted group projects focusing on Existing Building Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) Policy & Stakeholder Engagement for Cornell’s Climate Action Plan. There were five groups that looked at different scopes and options for potential EBOM policies.

Students in the course Green Revolving Fund study green labs efficiency returns based on building performance, square footage, and occupancy habits.


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 Maplewood Apartments – graduate student residences – are an all-electric neighborhood with 444 units and 872 beds. Max Zhang, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his team of undergraduate and graduate students will deploy wireless monitors and systems in a living laboratory. Their goal is to obtain performance detail on how air-source heat pumps – which extract heat from outside air to put indoors – perform under Ithaca’s severe winter conditions.


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:

Dining sustainability student staff in partnership with faculty and staff have been researching the food waste habits of students and designing interventions to reduce food waste. Applied Economics faculty and students as part of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab have been studying the food choices of students in the cafeterias to enhance our understanding of the psychology of food choices in cafeterias. More information is available here
http://www.ben.cornell.edu/smarter-lunchrooms.html

Undergraduate members of the Food Focus Team are examining the sustainability of Cornell's food purchases by inputting data into the Real Food Calculator.

The Dining Services team is beginning implementation of PHOOD as a living laboratory project with researchers, student learners, and staff - to reduce food waste.


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:

Cornell's Urban Horticulture Institute faculty and students study plant selection and site restoration/modification techniques to create resilient urban ecosystems. They have created more than 25 demonstration gardens on the Cornell campus over the last 15 years, including a roadside bioswale testing new breeds of plants hardy to road salt and snow cover.
https://blogs.cornell.edu/urbanhort/

The Cornell Grounds Department launched a Mobile Solar Charging Station this year as part of the Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD) engineering program in coordination with Engineering faculty, design students, and the grounds crew. The station provides 100% renewable solar power to charge all mobile ground equipment needed for basic campus maintenance.


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:

As part of the Sustainable Cornell Council, a working team has been established specifically to identify purchasing imporvement opportunities. The first project of this group involved a group of faculty, researchers, and students who worked with the Building Care team to identify opportunities for purchasing volume reduction in the shared cleaning and building care supply chain used across department and division systems. A year ago, Building Care used eight floor-stripping chemical products; now it’s just one. Mott said his group has pared 13 different floor finishing products down to two – depending on the type of floor – and Cornell now has one standard floor cleaner.
https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/03/cornell-custodians-embrace-low-odor-cleaning-products


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 Sustainable Cornell Council identified "Alternative Transportation" as one of the key working groups through which living laboratory research could improve decision making and financial allocation for alterative transportation systems on campus. Faculty, staff, and students are creating a priority decision matrix for evaluating variant value systems and planetary, people, and financial benefits across key project areas, including electrification of fleet vehicles, electrification infrastructure support (including for commuters), and increasing on-campus circulation bus services. The decision matrix requires evaluation of both human value systems at work in various organizational contexts, as well as evaluation of total carbon and sustainability impact on campus operations and commuting behaviors.


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 redesign of campus waste, recycling, and compost signage was performed as a living laboratory project with input from the Campus Sustainability Office, Dining Services, and five student organizations focused on research, behavioral analysis, and the study of effective behavior change communication techniques last year. The redesign process relied on studying behaviors and prototype waste signage in locations across campus, student and user interviews, and a design process to engage researchers and operational staff in ensuring cultural appropriateness, accessible color and iconography, and continuity which worked within existing Cornell building brand and design constraints.


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:

Cornell University has its own water filtration plant, and provides clean drinking water to the Cornell Ithaca campus. This water plant is available for tours and living laboratory course engagement, and typically supports 4-5 classes per semester where students are able to tour, study, and access data with real-time evaluation of the consequences of different water quality management strategies and user-beliefs in the quality of water-based on annual reports. https://fcs.cornell.edu/departments/energy-sustainability/utilities/water


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:

Various students in the MBA program, CIPA (Cornell Institute for Public Affairs), and School for Industrial and Labor Relations have done academic projects in partnership with the Campus Sustainability Office and Planning Offices at Cornell relating to the use of metrics in performance management, carbon reduction planning, and campus master planning. Last year, students worked with the Campus Sustainability Office to assess and propose a redesign of the Climate Action Plan as a living, online document. Their research enabled staff to consider options which would be fully accessible, kept up to date with minimal operational staffing needs or additional time investment, and resulted in a new approach to keeping community members engaged in the ongoing updates to CAP strategy & actions in place.


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:

Prof. Kelly Musick in her Research Methods class (SOC 2130/PAM 2150) in Sociology regularly has students engage with institutional data on first generation or low income students and the Cornell experience. Each term she works with real world community or campus partners.

Prof. Troy Richardson in his Intergroup Dialogue class (EDUC 2610) has small groups of students design and carry out interventions (intergroup collaboration projects) with campus or community partners based around the theme of their dialogue sections—race, sexuality, gender, religion, ability, or socio-economic class. This course is also taught by Prof. John Forester in the same way.

Prof Anthony Burrow in his course on Racial and Ethnic Identity Development (HD 3510) and his collaborative research with Dr. Janis Whitlock studies and encourages his students both in the classroom and in the lab to examine personal development and sense of purpose in relation to engagement with diversity and making meaning from diverse encounters.


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

Students in the Green Revolving Loan Fund class examine returns related to efficiency projects and their relative impact and relation to EOI and other financial decision making procedures.


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:

The Engaged Cornell initiative launched with the overarching goal to establish community engagement in teaching, learning, and research settings as a hallmark of the Cornell experience, thereby preparing our students to become citizens who will enrich not only our community but also the places throughout the world in which they choose to live and work.

Engaged Cornell has supported over 1,000 new projects with sustainability focus which engage community partners since launching in 2016.

For instance, in 2014, Cornell launched a project in Binghamton as part of its Rust to Green initiative that was created to foster sustainable community development in post-industrial cities in upstate New York. The initiative in Binghamton, Living with Water, is a community-engaged research project addressing the city’s vulnerability to climate change and flooding. Binghamton experienced record flooding in 2006 and 2011, and this project uses a variety of research strategies to engage local and state government officials with residents and artists to achieve community flood resilience. Working with faculty at Cornell and Binghamton University, the students interview residents who were affected by the 2011 flood. Students also assess the impact a new play, which explores living with water, has on community development and flood resilience. This work is ongoing.
http://engaged.cornell.edu/about/


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:

Research on the benefits of flex place and time are being conducted on campus in partnership with the Office of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Students and researchers partner directly with staff to perform analysis, research and study which allows for new insights into the efficacy of various human resource policies and support techniques to allow for better work-life balance. An emphasis of this research has been on determining quality of life perception and program infiltration rates. This research has been used to improve Cornell's flex program, including updating policies & incentives.
https://www.hr.cornell.edu/life/support/flexible_arrangements.html


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:

Cornell's Leadership for Campus Sustainability class is a 3 credit service-learning course to develop leadership and peer education skills while improving campus sustainability in the residence halls. During the semester each student will serve as a Cornell EcoRep, a program leader and role model for a specific residence hall. EcoReps learn how to plan, coordinate, and implement sustainability education activities in collaboration with residence hall staff. They work with other students in and outside the class to develop competencies in persuasion, education and community based social marketing.

Residential Sustainability Leaders (RSL) is a program for students who want to learn about sustainability, develop leadership skills, and share knowledge with their peers through active programming and dialogue. RSLs work in collaboration with the Campus Sustainability Office, Residential Life, and West Campus House System to promote sustainable behaviors, identify issues and implement real solutions within residential communities, and build a culture of sustainability across campus. https://experience.cornell.edu/opportunities/residential-sustainability-leaders-rsls


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