Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.35
Liaison Careen Arsenault
Submission Date March 3, 2022

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
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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:

The Residential Sustainability Leaders (RSL) program is a peer-education initiative that also performs ongoing research, analysis, and presentation to key campus operational constituents to improve sustainability culture and operational mechanisms related to the Cornell student experience.

1) In Spring 2021 a team of RSLs worked on a year-long analysis and presented findings on how to improve student adoption of reusable takeaway containers in campus dining facilities to a group of budgetary and operational dining specialists. Their recommendations were adopted by Cornell and implemented in Fall 2021, leading to significant improvement in reusables distribution systems and a move to make the containers free and returnable at most dining locations as a key intervention to increasing adoption. Approximately 60% more students utilized the reusable takeaway container program in 2021 as a result of their living laboratory research.

2) RSLs and Campus Sustainablity Office staff also partnered to research and identify interventions to reduce recycling contamination and increase composting in North Campus residential halls by tracking waste weight with photos, data analysis, and tracking during a 6 month period. Findings were presented to residential facilities staff and campus recycling staff to improve bin placement and engage students in signage improvements to better direct appropriate waste disposal behaviors. This initiative improved overall campus engagement in student sustainability initiatives through direct contact across the Compost Managers network.

3) Comm 3180: Communications & the Environment, an undergraduate required communication course, designs social media campaigns targeted at improving student sustainability engagement and campus sustainability culture for the Campus Sustainability Office each spring. The first course completed their work in Spring 2021 and was implemented Fall 2021, with an uptick in engagement and total social media posts of 400% by the Campus Sustainability Office. Topics include sustainable "swaps" for every day products, introducing familiarity with "behind the scenes" operational sustainability on campus, and a suite of student sustainability engagement resources like courses, clubs, and projects on campus.


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 (OEI) 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.

Examples of living laboratory research in this area include:

1) Vision Zero in Ithaca: An interdisciplinary campus-community partnership to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries, with an emphasis on creating a safe community which embraces sustainable, alternative transportation and makes our roadways and systems safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and mobility modes of transportation outside of single-occupancy vehicles:
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, with a specific emphasis on creating a safe transportation system for cyclists, pedestrians, and with a vision of a lower-carbon transportation future for our community. 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. This program has used several full-semester courses and graduate student projects to tie learning outcomes to the community initiative.

2) Bolstering the New York Dairy Industry
https://oei.cornell.edu/recipient/bolstering-the-new-york-dairy-industry/
In this project, faculty, students and partners are teaming up to strengthen the New York dairy industry by educating farmers about the intersection between animal health and food quality and safety, offering processors easy access to extension support and workforce development, and increasing consumer awareness and confidence. The program emphasizes the development and support of local farmers, increasing our regional food supply, and advancing farmers' knowledge and resources for creating healthy human, animal, ecological systems. This project used on-campus dairy teaching barns and learning facilities as a testing ground for students and faculty to then share and learn with community participants on best practices. This program is directly tied to several courses and curricular activities for students.

3) Roosevelt Island Community Roundtable
https://oei.cornell.edu/recipient/roosevelt-island-community-roundtable/
Roosevelt Islanders, Cornell Tech, Cornell Cooperative Extension of New York City and Roosevelt Island organizations — led by a facilitator and leaders from iDig2Learn and the Roosevelt Island Garden Club — will establish goals, priorities, strategies and program topics for the summit. Potential topics include health, science and human development programs on clean water, food, air, land, shelter, resource and waste management; systems that sustain a clean environment; proximity to nature; self-sufficiency; and financial success and stability.

Additionally, the living laboratory student group CUSD: Cornell University Sustainable Design, created this project group in 2021:

4) Founded in 2009, Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD) is a student run, interdisciplinary project team with a bias towards impact. ICN 2030 Policy is researching existing policies, programs, and best practices in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings with a focus on implementation in small U.S. cities. The City of Ithaca is partnering as a real-world stakeholder to implement this project's findings and server as a role model for U.S. cities. https://www.cusd.cornell.edu/projects/policy/


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 living laboratory area 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.

1) 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.


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:

1) Faculty and student teams 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, and are used in formal course curriculum in CHE as living laboratory data for students to understand and explore behavioral dynamics at work.

2) 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.

3) Student interns designed and supported the launch of a comprehensive GRITS library of energy conservation initiative projects, which has helped to advance further project implementation with new consitituents on campus, communicate project benefits and financial & carbon savings to senior leadership, and provide ECI staff with insights on long-term ROI performance.
https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/campus-initiatives/buildings-energy/energy-conservation-projects

4) Founded in 2009, Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD) is a student run, interdisciplinary project team with a bias towards impact.
The CUSD Team "Existing Building Model" is a consulting team working with the City of Ithaca to help make existing buildings in the city carbon neutral by the year 2030. More specifically, Existing Building Model is modeling and analyzing different retrofit options to these buildings to get the most optimal energy usage savings and greenhouse gas reductions, all of which will inform ICN 2030 Policy.


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:

1) 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.

2) 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 Food & Dining?:
Yes

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

1) Anabel’s Grocery is a student-run, non-profit grocery store on Cornell’s campus provides fresh, local, and affordable food for all students in order to improve food security while also promoting anti-racism. Anabel’s is run by students enrolled in a Practicum in Social Entrepreneurship course and overseen by the Center for Transformative Action, a social justice-focused non-profit affiliated with Cornell. Students annually assess, study, and create new programmatic initiatives to address food insecurity on campus and engage students in healthy, sustainable eating practices. The grocery is located within Anabel Taylor Hall on Cornell’s campus. Much of the produce sold at the store is sourced from local growers and producers, including Cornell’s student-run Dilmun Hill Farm, Cornell Orchards, and the Cornell Hydroponics Club. Many items are sold on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, and others cost approximately half of what one would pay for the same product at the local farmer’s market. A subsidy fund from Cornell’s undergraduate and graduate Student Assemblies helps to keep prices low.

Proceeds from Dilmun Hill produce and Hydroponics Club greens go to a grant fund administered by Cornell Students for Black Lives to support the fight against racism. https://www.nycfoodpolicy.org/food-policy-snapshot-anabels-grocery-cornell-university/

2) 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.

3) 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.

4) The Sustainable Cornell Council has launched a working group 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:

1) The Cornell Grounds Department uses a Mobile Solar Charging Station designed in partnership with 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 and is used as an educational and demonstration display for courses, learning, and campus events.
https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/news/unplugged-students-build-green-trailer-energize-tools

2) Cornell's Sustainable Landscapes Trail is on ongoing living laboratory sustainability resource for the campus community which features campus landscapes designed for maximium sustainability impact with student, faculty, and staff collaboration. The 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. (Note that the link provided details work from 2020, but this working group has continued with a living laboratory focus into 2022).
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 2021: 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:

1) 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, creating connections between intergenerational economics and educational justice, particularly at the intersection of emerging climate and sustainability learning opportunities. Each term the class works with real world community or campus partners to identify a question, problem, or potential issue for study at the economic-class-sustainability nexus.

2) 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. Many of these interventions focus on sustainability or climate-themed topics, including bridging dialogue on environmental issues, resource use, and climate theory across race, class, and other cultural divides. This course is also taught by Prof. John Forester in the same way.


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:

1) The GRF finances energy efficiency and environmental sustainability projects at Cornell University. Energy savings from projects return to the fund, growing the university's possibilities for future funding. 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. To date, the class and projects have saved Cornell 1600 Tons CO2 EMISSIONS and substantial financial savings in key energy and operations areas.
https://grf.johnson.cornell.edu/


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:

1) 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 the 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:
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