Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.33
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 1, 2024

STARS v2.2

Cornell University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Sarah Carson
Director, Campus Sustainability Office
FS - Energy & Sustainability
"---" 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:
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 Sustainability 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. Conference and Event Services is working with a research student team, as part of ORIE 4999, focused on the process optimization of the Service Center which has experience triple the incoming student parcel volume post-COVID. In the Spring of 2023, the team worked on a queue modeling to set the Service Center up for success by having the right number of workers behind the desk at specific times during the day, resulting in a manageable level. The Service Center set up a physical queue line to help keep order and added additional signage to educate the students in line. In the Fall of 2023, the research students started working on package management within the constraints of software tools and space limitations.

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:
Einhorn Center for Community Engagement 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://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/05/grants-fund-15-community-engaged-research-projects 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. Students participating in the summit will have direct experience in an activity where campus resources are brought to bear in a collaborative effort with a public group to address a public need. 4) Natural Resources Summer Intern The Climate Stewards Training program is a statewide Cornell Cooperative Extension effort to equip participants to act to address climate change in their communities through educational outreach and steward-led climate smart projects. The Climate Stewards are a diverse group with a variety of different issues about which they feel passionate and driven to address. The third cohort of Climate Stewards in Monroe County will complete their training in fall of 2024. As the program has grown, so have the opportunities to support the Climate Stewards and their community projects. Cornell has established a Summer Internship to coordinate and work with the Climate Stewards to help them push their initiatives into the public sector. Additionally, the living laboratory student group CUSD: Cornell University Sustainable Design, created this project group in 2021: 5) 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 Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP’s strategies bring together students, faculty, and staff on matters of research, education, stewardship and outreach. 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. Exploring Supplemental District Energy Technologies - Examine various technologies and systems to meet the peak energy demand and to provide long-/short-term energy storage Green Hydrogen Working Group - Evaluate the economic and environmental implications of green hydrogen for inclusion in the Cornell Climate Action Plan for peaking and resiliency Land-Based Carbon Sinks Working Group - Advance land-based carbon dioxide removal strategies on Cornell lands, expertise and research interests Supported & Living Laboratory Projects Earth Source Heat/CUBO - Ensure senior administrative support for the ongoing success of Earth Source Heat

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:
Cornell's well-curated Design and Construction Standards promote healthy lifestyles, social well-being, and the creation of a welcoming and just space for all members of the campus community. These guidelines set aggressive goals that require innovation, design discipline and steady enforcement. Coupled with a bold space management program. https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/buildings-energy/building-standards 1) 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 constituents 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 2) 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:
Cornell's earthsourceheat.cornell.edu initiative is a game-changing living lab project informing the feasibility of direct use geothermal heat for cold climates with minimal electricity and no refrigerants. 1) Cornell's Earth Source Heat project kicked off in a tangible way summer 2022 with the Cornell University Borehole Observatory. Students were actively engaged in many roles including "mud loggers" https://youtu.be/ib3QxSAUGHg as well as roles analyzing seismicity monitoring data, and geological data and samples https://youtu.be/_p5FPKDKAAU. CUBO Phase II was approved in Fall 2023 and is underway with continued progress projected through the next fiscal year. 2) The School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received 1,200 damaged solar panels from the installers of a utility scale solar farm near Ithaca. One professor, in turn, gave the panels to a Cornell University Sustainability Design (CUSD) student group and asked them to design, implement and test refurbishing methods – and evaluate panel durability. Students are using polyurethane, resin, epoxy – and gallons of wit – to give new life to cracked, broken and nonworking solar panels.

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) A student-run volunteer program named the Food Recovery Network collects prepared food that won't be served, but is still usable, from residential dining rooms, retail locations, and catering events. The students donate this food (averaging 2,500-3,000 pounds of food per year) to a local nonprofit, the Friendship Donations Network, which distributes it to area foodbanks. 4) Cornell Dining is working to discourage the use of single-use plastic utensils, both by encouraging the use of reusable utensils and, when necessary, by offering more Earth-friendly disposable items. Another student-driven innovation is pre-sorting silverware at the dish drop to streamline the washing process for reusable plates and cutlery. Cornell Dining managers work closely with student dining “champions” who help motivate their peers to adopt greener behaviors and continue to look for ways to minimize waste. 5) The Sustainable Cornell Council conducted 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. In concert with Menus of Change recommendations, they have made operational changes resulting in significant reduction of food waste.

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) Cornell's Sustainable Landscapes Trail is on ongoing living laboratory sustainability resource for the campus community which features campus landscapes designed for maximum 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 2) The Grounds department partners with Cornell's academic turf grass unit to pilot and study the carbon impacts of different turf management practices. Leveraging higher mowing heights, no/seasonal mow areas, and changes in fertilizer regimes have created measurable carbon reductions. 3) The Learning by Leading program was introduced by the Botanic Gardens. It is an experience-based program that allows students to take the lead on real-world projects related to our sustainability, horticulture, and education efforts. Learning by doing, building relationships, co-creating, solving problems, and developing leadership skills by working as a team guided by a staff mentor. https://cornellbotanicgardens.org/learn/cornell-programs/learning-by-leading/ 4) Landscape Architecture faculty work with the Campus Planning Office to use current projects and challenges on campus sites as the focus of their undergraduate and graduate design studio projects. Staff provides students with current site mapping and data and program, visit the site with them, and act as “client” and design critic.

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:
A recent Student Sustainability Coordinator participated in all Dining initiatives and questioned the practice of receiving fresh seafood from one vendor in non-recyclable Styrofoam boxes. This student collaborated with the Campus Sustainability Office to ask the vendor to look into their packaging practices, and since summer 2022, they have switched 85% of the fresh seafood packaging to non-Styrofoam corrugated boxes.

Is 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:
Cornell was awarded a large grant in 2022 to install the regions first hydrogen fueling station and evaluate/promote hydrogen for various transportation purposes. The university also was funded to provide a Level 3 electric vehicle charger to its community. The Sustainable Cornell Council continues to prioritize "Alternative Transportation" as one of the key working groups through which living laboratory research continues to improve decision making and financial allocation for alternative transportation systems on campus. This year a graduate students supported an EV infrastructure working group to determine the appropriate infrastructure adjustments to accommodate growing EV charging demand from students, faculty, staff and visitors as well as the campus fleet vehicles. This Regional Planning graduate student conducted a literature search, peer analysis, and use case interviews to support the next steps for the core group as part of her coursework.

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:
Cornell partnered with a local UN Global Shapers chapter to inventory and analyze ideal placement of outdoor waste receptacles. Project is ongoing as of 2022. 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 Students, as part of the Student Assembly, were interest in promoting better recycling & waste management across residential spaces, to include more technologically advanced Smart Waste Bins as well as recycling & waste signage. Student collaboration with the Campus sustainability Office and Campus Life Marketing effectively moved forward the print and placement of this new signage. A subsequent study was conducted on waste bins and ultimately determined that replacing existing waste bins with Smart Bin would not improve waste management across campus, however this exercise did lead to the design and implementation of Campus Sustainable Waste Map which can be viewed here https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/news/check-out-cornell-sustainable-waste-map

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 AguaClara Cornell is a student-led program that develops and implements sustainable, gravity-powered water treatment technologies to bring safe water on tap to communities around the world. AguaClara Cornell pioneers research in community-scale water treatment technologies. AguaClara Cornell has partnered with AguaClara Reach and other local organizations to build more than 24 AguaClara plants that provide safe water on tap to over 96,000 people, with the flagship plant in Ojojona, Honduras, India, and Nicaragua. https://aguaclara.cornell.edu/

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. Each year the Campus Sustainability Office hires individual students to support the advancement and coordination of sustainability initiatives across campus. In 2023, the CSO hired a Sustainability Coordinator for Student Engagement, Sustainability Coordinator for Campus Operations, Sustainability Coordinator for Campus Events and a Sustainability Communications fellow.

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?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance:
1) Cornell Energy & Dept staff taking Master's programs at Cornell leverage the ongoing climate action plan energy transition projects and related financial analysis to advance their work for academic credit. 2) Cornell's Env & Sustainability major capstone class evaluated the 20 yr financial performance of Cornell's Lake Source Cooling project. 3) A campus priority is to understand and adjust the electric vehicle charging infrastructure across campus. Cornell currently does not require users to pay for EV charging on campus, as infrastructure expands, an adjusted payment structure will need to be implemented. To support this research, students in ENGRC 3350, an Engineering Communications class, analyzed the market and proposed a potential pricing scheme for EV charging across campus.

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 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://hr.cornell.edu/understand-your-benefits/flexible-work Cornell recently signed the Okanagan Charter to become a health promoting campus. To support the development of wellbeing initiatives, Cornell chartered two groups as advisors: Student Engagement and the Workforce Wellbeing Advisory Group. As part of this, one student helped to champion the development of the Climate Change and Eco-Anxiety website to help provide tips on how to manage this anxiety and support wellness. https://health.cornell.edu/resources/health-topics/climate-change

Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Data source(s) and notes about the submission:
https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/living-laboratory

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