Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 85.12
Liaison Careen Arsenault
Submission Date March 4, 2021

STARS v2.2

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
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement:

Cornell's Leadership for 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.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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.

A project example from Engaged Cornell in the past year:

Vision Zero in Ithaca: An interdisciplinary campus-community partnership to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries
https://oei.cornell.edu/recipient/vision-zero-in-ithaca/

This radical collaboration stretches from campus to community and across multiple Cornell departments and colleges. In partnership with the City of Ithaca, Ithaca Police Department, and Tompkins County Health Department, this team is laying a foundation for Vision Zero in Ithaca, NY. Vision Zero is an international initiative that aims to achieve a roadway system with no fatalities or serious injuries. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, the team aims to leverage multiple data sources and research evidence to bring traffic-related crashes, injuries and fatalities to zero. This initial grant project funds students who are conducting a literature review to support subsequent efforts of the project, including greater student engagement and community health impact.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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.

A faculty and staff research collaboration aimed at furthering climate neutrality efforts in Fall 2020 paired biomass specialists with energy & sustainability staff to create a published report, "Sustainable district energy integrating biomass peaking with geothermal baseload heating: A case study of decarbonizing Cornell's energy system" examining and modeling the specific technical applications of biomass as a part of the heating and renewable energy strategy planned for 2035. This paper proposes coupling baseload geothermal heating with energy from waste biomass from Cornell's dairy farms to meet the campus' peak heating demand. The envisioned biomass peaking system, consisting of a hybrid anaerobic digestion/hydrothermal liquefaction/biomethanation process, produces renewable natural gas (RNG) for injection and storage into the natural gas (NG) distribution grid and uses NG withdrawals at times of peak heating demand.

Details here: https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/5.0024841

The Sustainable Cornell Council relaunched as the campus governance system recently and has engaged three working groups of blended faculty/students and staff partners to explore critical campus living laboratory elements related to achieving carbon neutrality for the Ithaca campus by 2035.

These include:

- Low Carbon Business Travel & Air Travel Carbon Offsets: This group is still underway, creating a plan for piloting voluntary carbon offsets for air travel in order to reduce the carbon footprint associated with business travel. Additionally, study the benefits of reduced business travel and remote business participation during COVID-19 to identify areas for long-term adoption which benefit the academic mission and wellbeing of the Cornell community.

- Protocol for Upstream Methane Leakage: Recommended a protocol for Cornell to assess and report the upstream methane emissions associated with natural gas use at the Central Energy Plant, as part of a larger conversation around GHG accounting and Cornell's management of an effective GHG inventory.

- Make or Buy Summer Electricity: This group analyzed the carbon impact of making power at the Central Energy Plant when waste heat could not be utilized, vs. buying power from the grid. Recommendations were used to inform campus purchasing and operational policy.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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 infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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.

The Sustainable Cornell Council has also launched a working team focused on "Dining Operations Food Waste Reduction" which has been evaluating opportunities for food and other waste-minimization in both process and products in Dining Services back-of-house operations with a blended study and student engagement approach.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Grounds:

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.
https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/news/unplugged-students-build-green-trailer-energize-tools

Cornell's Sustainable Landscapes Trail was made virtually accessible as a teaching and learning tools this year in response to the COVID pandemic and increased online / remote-learning needs in a new narrated video tour from Cornell Botanic Gardens. The 16 sites on the trail promote open spaces, natural areas and landscapes with unique sustainability features that enhance and promote healthy ecosystems. Most of these features were designed with staff, student, faculty and research collaboration. https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/news/sustainable-landscapes-trail-offers-virtual-tour


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Purchasing:

As part of the Sustainable Cornell Council, a working team has been established specifically to identify purchasing improvement 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


IIs the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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 alternative 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 infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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.

This article from 2018 explains the initiative, though the effort to use collaborative student & researcher teams to effectively design and implement using the design guidelines is ongoing and persistent through 2020: https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/news/new-recycling-signage


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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 infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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 infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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 infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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 EUI and other financial decision making procedures.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.