Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Lindsey Lyons
Submission Date April 30, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Dickinson College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Lindsey Lyons
Assistant Director
Center for Sustainability Education
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing the campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in the following areas?:
Yes or No
Air & Climate Yes
Buildings Yes
Dining Services/Food Yes
Energy Yes
Grounds ---
Purchasing ---
Transportation Yes
Waste ---
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability ---
Health, Wellbeing & Work ---
Investment Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Other Yes

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Air & Climate and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A Climate Action Task Force (CATF) was established in 2013 by the President's Commission on Environmental Sustainability (PCES) to assess Dickinson’s progress toward climate neutrality, identify and evaluate options for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, develop recommendations, and present a draft plan of priority options to the campus. Students participated in this Living Lab project as volunteers and as paid research assistants.

The work of the Climate Action Task Force was organized around four teams, each composed of students, faculty and staff, and each was supported by two student research assistants. The teams were:

Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Transportation
Renewable Energy
New Construction and Carbon Offsets

A number of recommendations from the CATF teams, including creation of a green revolving fund to finance GHG reduction projects, have been adopted by the College.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Buildings and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Students in the SUST 301 Sustainability Practicum course, Reducing Dickinson's Carbon Footprint, use the campus as a Living Lab and research options for reducing the college's greenhouse gas emissions. At the end of the semester, students present their findings and recommendations to the President's Commission on Environmental Sustainability. Student projects have included several that focused on buildings, including evaluations of the feasibility of a net-zero field house, replacement of windows in student residence halls, solar installation options for the student union building, reducing plug loads in residence halls, and design options and behavior change programs for a new residence hall that is being planned.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Dining Services/Food and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Student research assistants are working with the Center for Sustainability Education to calculate Dickinson’s Nitrogen Footprint, evaluate options for reducing our footprint, and develop recommendations for the College. A nitrogen footprint is a measure of the amount of nitrogen that is released to the environment from campus operations. At Dickinson, the largest contributor to our footprint is our dining services. The project is part of a multi-institution effort of the Nitrogen-Footprint Network that includes the University of Virginia, Brown University, Colorado State University, Eastern Menonite University, the University of New Hampshire, and the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole. Members of the Network will share and compare their research and strategies for reducing nitrogen footprints, including potential changes in dining service operations.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Energy and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Student interns of the Center for Sustainability Education coordinated the 2015 Energy Challenge at Dickinson from March 16 - April 6. The theme of the challenge was Spark the Change; the goal was to reduce energy consumption across Dickinson's campus. Students participated (6 on the core team & 25 on the volunteer team) in this living laboratory by collecting and visualizing data, hosting events with stakeholders, organizing campaigns aimed at positively changing behavior, and implementing creative ways to outreach to students, faculty, and staff.

Together, the residence halls reduced consumption by 69,670 kilowatt hours, saving a total of $6,270 in energy costs and 84,719 pounds of eCO2 emissions.

The leading gas-heated residence hall obtained 33.5 percent reductions in electricity usage, while the leading electric-heated residence hall saw a 53.3 percent reduction.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Grounds and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Purchasing and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Transportation and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The Center for Sustainability Education employs a student to serve as the Biking @ Dickinson intern each semester. This living laboratory opportunity allows a student to study transportation issues at Dickinson and in Carlisle, collect and manage data, and apply solutions that create more sustainable transportation options. Outcomes of this effort include the creation and operation of our on campus bicycle co-op, The Handlebar, and recognition as a Bicycle Friendly University (Silver).

The Handlebar, launched by students, faculty, and staff in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability Education and the Idea Fund, strengthens Dickinson’s living laboratory for sustainability education by providing a context for meaningful service, community building, resource sharing, and experiential learning. In The Handlebar, students, faculty, and staff work as leaders and volunteers assisting fellow members of the Dickinson Community to learn the skills of bike repair and maintenance, building their own bike mechanic and leadership skills, participating in a program that reclaims and reuses materials to provide a valuable environment-friendly benefit to the community, and promoting life skills for more active, healthier, and sustainable living.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Waste and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Water and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Students in Nicola Tynan's (Professor of Economics) 2014 first year seminar entitled Water: from Abundant Resource to Scarce Good, explored challenges for achieving water security and sustainable use of our water resources at the local, national, and international level. Students analyzed Dickinson's campus water consumption by building from 2006-2014 and presented their work to sustainability staff at the college. Professor Tynan is continuing data analysis on Dickinson's water use during a student-faculty research project for summer 2015.

Additionally, the Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM) has provided capacity building technical assistance to Pennsylvania communities to monitor, protect, and restore local waterways since 1986. ALLARM employs 14 students to work in a living laboratory that provides technical assistance to watershed organizations, community education, and training for volunteer monitoring efforts related to shale gas extraction.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Coordination, Planning & Governance and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Three students serve on the President's Commission on Environmental Sustainability (PCES), working with faculty members, administrators, staff, and alumni to guide at a strategic level all aspects of Dickinson's sustainability initiatives, monitor progress, and advise the President. The students are mentored by the Director of the Center for Sustainability Education. As members of the Commission, the students contribute to decision-making that is advancing sustainability at Dickinson, learning first hand about sustainability in higher education. An outcome of students participation on PCES is development of a new Sustainability Dashboard that will display measures of our sustainability performance.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Diversity & Affordability and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Health, Wellbeing & Work and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Investment and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Five students serve on the Sustainable Investment Group, a subcommittee of the President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability that provides a forum for the Dickinson community to raise and discuss questions about the college’s investments, act as a liaison between the Dickinson community and the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Investments, and provide input to the Committee on Investments’ conversations about environmental, social, and governance issues as they relate to college investments. The students, mentored by faculty and other members of the Sustainable Investment Group, learn about the management of Dickinson’s endowment, conduct research on the practices and investment policies of peer-institutions, ESG principles, and ESG investor networks, and assist with drafting an investor beliefs statement for the College. The students played key roles in organizing and facilitating a campus forum on sustainable investment on April 23 that was attended by 80 members of the Dickinson community.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Public Engagement and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Dickinson students have the opportunity to participate in courses that utilize community-based research pedagogy to engage students in mutually beneficial research projects with community partners. These courses often address sustainability related issues. One of these courses, "Building Sustainable Communities," is focused on advancing sustainability in our locality. Working in teams, students partner with community organizations in research that helps to advance landscape conservation, alternative transportation, sustainable recreation options, sustainable food systems, and social capital.

Partner organizations have included the Cumberland County Planning Department, South Mountain Partnership, Westside Neighbors Association, Capital Area Resource Conservation & Development, and the Greater Carlisle Project. One outcome assisted by the community-based research is a successful grant application by the Westside Neighbors Association to renovate a playground in a low-income area of Carlisle, incorporating natural play features and edible landscaping.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory in Other areas and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Student employees, volunteers and graduate apprentices produce food for the campus and community, conduct research, design and build renewable energy systems, and educate the public on Dickinson's 50-acre certified organic farm. Students in a wide variety of disciplines learn about renewable energy and sustainable agriculture through living laboratory projects, workshops, and volunteer opportunities. On-site classes and independent research projects give students unique insights into complex mathematics, the role of food in global politics, public art projects, Buddhist philosophies, and more.

The farm provides food to the campus and local community. The majority of the harvest is sold to the campus Dining Hall, with a significant portion earmarked for the farm’s Campus Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, a May-November produce subscription that feeds more than 150 families. The farm also sells produce, using student workers, through a bountiful stand at Carlisle’s thriving weekly farmers’ market and donates thousands of pounds of fresh produce to a local food bank, Project S.H.A.R.E.

Through youth programs such as Farm, Cook, Eat, Sustainable Earth Education (SEED), and the hosting of popular annual events such as the Local Food Dinner, Dickinson College Farm serves as a venue for the Dickinson community and its neighbors to experience a holistic approach to land stewardship rooted in management practices that work to sustain the natural environment.

Examples of outcomes of student research and projects at the farm include a mobile app for data collection that is increasing farm management efficiency and that is now being piloted with 30 other farmers in our region, an optimization model that is being used to improve crop and pasture rotations, integration of renewable energy systems into the farm, innovations in integrated pest management at the farm, a solar-powered farm utility vehicle, and an electric tractor.


The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:

The Dickinson College campus and communities beyond campus borders are living laboratories for learning about sustainability problems and solutions through direct experience. Dickinson students work with each other, faculty, staff, and community members to identify and define problems, understand their causes, develop solutions, and test their ideas.



At Dickinson, characteristics of sustainability learning laboratories include:

Experiential: Students learn through direct experience outside a traditional classroom setting.

Problem-based: Students engage in learning about an authentic problem, challenge, or opportunity with the purpose of exploring, implementing, and assessing actions for advancing sustainability goals.

Place-based: Problems, challenges, opportunities, and actions are examined and understood within the context of a specific place (e.g. a college campus, a community, a local ecosystem).

Systems-based: Students are challenged to apply systems thinking to consider the interplay of environmental, social, cultural, organizational, and economic aspects of problems and actions.

Action oriented: Develops students as change agents, fomenting action that will make a campus, community, or other place more sustainable.

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