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

STARS v2.2

Cornell University
OP-9: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.29 / 2.00 Leslie Schill
University Planner
Capital Projects and Planning
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total campus area:
2,466.06 Acres

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds:
Area (double-counting is not allowed)
Area managed organically, without the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides 296 Acres
Area managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that uses selected chemicals only when needed 712 Acres
Area managed using conventional, chemical-based landscape management practices 0 Acres
Total area of managed grounds 1,008 Acres

A brief description of any land excluded from the area of managed grounds:
The footprint of experimental agricultural land and areas that are not regularly managed or maintained has been excluded.

Percentage of grounds managed organically:

A brief description of the organic landscape management program:
Lands that are managed without the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides include the Dilmun Hill Student Organic Farm,Pounder Heritage Garden, Unique Natural Areas protected for ecological research or species of special concern, or meadows maintained only by annual mowing. The student farm is managed by an organic coordinator and 5 student farm managers that seeks to foster community and empower students through active engagement in ecological agriculture. Unique Natural Areas are managed by the Botanic Garden Natural Areas Director, Botanist, Stewards and volunteers with a special focus on plant conservation and research. Cornell's Grounds crew maintain a number of "naturalized" meadows using only annual mowing to deter woody plant growth. Cultural methods including lawn aeration and topdressing with compost improve soil health and vitality reducing the need for fertilizer applications.

Percentage of grounds managed in accordance with an IPM program:

A copy of the IPM plan or program:
A brief description of the IPM program:
IPM is carried out at Cornell by several different groups - primarily the Grounds department, the Cornell Botanic Gardens (formerly Cornell Plantations) and the Agricultural Experiment Station (CU AES) and the College of Veterinary Medicine on the Ithaca campus. The 1,400 acres of open space comprise 61% of the main campus area and approximately 90% of our total grounds area. They include managed landscapes, natural areas and the arboretum, as well as crop fields, pastures and wooded areas used for teaching and research. The Grounds Dept. follows IPM procedures in maintaining the campus landscape. By doing so, pesticide used on campus is reduced every year. To control insects, weeds and plant diseases that threaten the lawn, flower, shrub, and tree species, IPM uses a holistic approach that includes many cultural pest control techniques: • Naturalized landscape design, emphasizing a diversity of species • Careful site selection and preparation • Use of hearty, disease and pest-resistant varieties • Proper frequencies of watering, pruning, and mowing • Mulching • Introduction of naturally occurring organisms to control pests Cornell Botanic Gardens cares for about 200 acres of botanical gardens and arboretum as well as a 3000+ square foot greenhouse, a lath house and a raised bed nursery utilizing Integrated Pest Management practices. There are many facets to this system from installation to long-term garden management. Preventative care is established through proper site selection and preparation prior to plant installation. In-depth scouting and monitoring of our collections is conducted for specific pests as well as yearly general assessments throughout the collections. Mechanical practices such as pruning, fall sanitation, utilizing water pressure and even hand removal of pests are employed to limit the need for pesticides. When chemical control becomes necessary, the staff strive to choose pesticides with least toxic properties. Cornell Botanic Garden works to reduce the need for herbicides through mechanical weed control whenever possible, both in the gardens and the arboretum. Finally, the program is supported with detailed records of treatment for reference and encouraging the education of the staff of gardeners. Cornell Botanic Gardens also manages the system of natural areas on campus. These areas are actively protected and managed to support the educational mission of the University. Management activities include but are not limited to monitoring, habitat establishment, natural areas restoration, naturalization, invasive species control, and deer over-population management. The CU AES farm managers follow IPM practices on the greatest majority of their land, production cropland and wherever IPM practices will complement a given research project. The forests are minimally managed, with some selective thinning. CU AES has been removing ash trees in an attempt to minimize the spread of the emerald ash borer, as well as some removal of unwanted or invasive species. The College of Veterinary Medicine manages its pasture lands without the use of any pesticides.

A brief description of the institution's approach to plant stewardship:
Various departments at the University - academic and administrative - manage landscape areas. There has been a long-standing practice of prioritizing and using native plant species in campus landscaping, both in the maintained grounds as well as in the campus landscapes that are used for teaching, research and conservation. This practice is in the process of being formalized into utilizing native plants as appropriate. The growing number of green infrastructure projects on campus include native plants as well.

A brief description of the institution's approach to hydrology and water use:
Under development as a component of our Land and Water teams as part of the President's Sustainability Council. Bio-swales, rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavements are regularly added to the campus as part of a water management program. Many of these locations can be found on the Campus Sustainability Trail. https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/campus-initiatives/land-water/sustainable-landscapes-trail

A brief description of the institution's approach to landscape materials management and waste minimization:
The majority of the agricultural composting at Cornell is carried out by Farm Services, a Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) operation, and includes far more than waste from grounds keeping (please see details in the attached public notes). What constitutes University Grounds includes an extensive area used for agricultural teaching, research and outreach. Since 1992, the Cornell Grounds department has collected thousands of cubic yards of yard waste from campus landscape maintenance activities. All yard waste is ground and composted in order to reduce and reuse materials. In 2023, the Grounds Department processed 2000 yards of tub grindings from brush and logs, 500 yards of leaf compost for reuse on campus as a soil amendment, 500 yards of wood chips, 1000 yards of creek gravel recycled and 1000 yards of recycled and screened topsoil. This has reduced disposal fees, transportation costs and the need to buy topsoil. These management practices have reduced the amount of material going into landfills as well as the contamination of water sources on and adjacent to the campus. Historically roof ballast is recycled from campus projects.

A brief description of the institution's approach to energy-efficient landscape design:
We employ energy efficient landscape design strategies on campus, explicitly for any project pursuing LEED certification (Credits 7.1 and 7.2 both address heat island effect, including shading with vegetation, use of paving materials with a high solar reflectance index, and green roofs) and through implementation of landscape design guidelines within our 2008 Cornell Master Plan for greenways, quads and greens, and streets and walks. They are integral elements of sustainable landscape design that contribute multiple benefits to the campus.

A brief description of other sustainable landscape management practices employed by the institution:
Cornell Grounds Department has piloted the use of battery-powered maintenance equipment (mowers, trimmers, chain saw, blowers) on parts of campus. In order to recharge the batteries in the field, they have a trailer with a solar-powered charging station. The environmental impacts of snow and ice removal are addressed in three broad ways. 1) Reducing the area to be de-iced. Grounds maintains over 61 miles of sidewalks. Through the University's earlier Advancing Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP) we had identified just over 2 miles (~3%) of walkway closures for winter maintenance. This seasonal closing equates to a reduction of salt usage, equipment fuel, and savings in lawn damage repairs totaling $12K annually. The Grounds Dept. tested a new type of salt spreader in 2016-2017 and found that the new technology allowed greater operator calibration and placement of salt along walkways. More of these more efficient spreaders were purchased for the 2019-20 snow season. The Grounds Department has added bulk treated salt products to their material usage since the winter season of 2020-21 in efforts to reduce quantity of chlorides used and improve efficacy to lower temperatures. Cornell Botanic Gardens has 5.3 miles of trails of which they have no winter maintenance on 2.2 miles (~ 42%). 2) Through a specific program for efficiency in application and materials. Cornell University has had a De-icing Salt Conservation (Sensible Salt/Calibration) Program in place since 1987. The program emphasizes the most economical use of de-icing salt while maintaining safety on roads and for the environment. The metrics are Environmental, Economic and Social. Environmental metrics include proper storage, handling, application, drainage, and landscaping. Economic metrics include lower operating costs due to reduced salt, as well as continued safe operation of roads. Social metrics include the safety of the campus community and the continuation of campus functions in inclement weather. 3) To use materials that require less salt over time, to reduce environmental impacts to the extent possible. Continued in-house employee training and the expansion of the efficacy of de-icing products. Our bulk salt usage for the last 5 years has been fairly static at 2000 Tons per season with a backup amount of 500 Tons in reserve.

Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainable landscape management program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:
While we are reporting only within the main campus boundary, Cornell University has a much larger extended campus as well as research stations within the county and New York State. CUAES has about 2100 acres of combined crop and forestland. Forested land and non-crop land (building spaces, grass alleys, etc.) occupy about a quarter of the total managed land area (525 acres). Of the remaining 1575 acres of crop land, we estimate that at least 1400 acres of that is managed in accordance with IPM practices. Details on our specific farms can be found at: http://cuaes.cals.cornell.edu/farms. Cornell Grounds is beginning to implement the use of battery powered mowers and landscape tools, many of which can be powered by an enclosed trailer with solar panels to charge the batteries off the grid. https://sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/campus-initiatives/land-water/grounds

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.