Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 79.77
Liaison Josh Lasky
Submission Date April 4, 2023

STARS v2.2

George Washington University
OP-9: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 2.00 Joseph Davis
Director | Grounds, Pest Control, Facilities Planning & Maintenance
Division of Safety and Facilities
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total campus area:
193 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 0 Acres
Area managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that uses selected chemicals only when needed 193 Acres
Area managed using conventional, chemical-based landscape management practices 0 Acres
Total area of managed grounds 193 Acres

A brief description of any land excluded from the area of managed grounds:
N/A - For consistency purposes, all GW land in the institutional boundary is included. While not considered managed land, building footprints and impermeable surfaces are included, per the STARS technical manual ("To simplify reporting, an institution may elect to account for the footprint of a building or facility and associated impervious surfaces such as sidewalks and parking areas based on how the entire site is managed as long as the same methodology is used consistently for all managed areas.")

Percentage of grounds managed organically:

A brief description of the organic landscape management program:
George Washington University follows the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care on all campuses. Our landscape maintenance, enhancements, and large-scale installations are in compliance with the principals and preferred methods outlined in the aforementioned standard.

By utilizing a "right plant for the right space" approach, the Sustainable Landscapes Guidelines indirectly influence our dependence on human inputs in the landscape. By utilizing native and adaptable plants that are prepared for existing site conditions, we are able to greatly encourage plant health and development without the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Plants that are adapted to their environment naturally resist pests and diseases. Furthermore, native plants on campus consistently provide habitat to predatory insects and food sources that mitigate pest outbreaks. Asclepias tuberosa, for example, attract oleander aphids, a known food source to predatory insects such as parasitic wasps and lady beetles. Nearby plants suffering from pest damage, such as Lagerstroemia spp., greatly improve with a higher volume of parasitic wasps in the landscape.

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:
The George Washington University Integrated Pest Management Plan
1. The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan for GW grounds applies to all three GW campuses: the Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC), the Mount Vernon Campus (MVC), and the downtown Foggy Bottom campus.
2. GW grounds IPM plan adheres to the following four-tiered approach: 1. Set action Thresholds, 2. Monitor and identify pests, 3. Prevention, 4. Control.
3. Applicability- This applies to all cultivated grounds on all GW campuses.

Over the past seven years, GW has virtually eliminated all pesticides for routine usage and works with a service partner to release biological beneficial insects at least three times per year.

A brief description of the institution's approach to plant stewardship:
The Sustainable Landscapes Guidelines were created by GW faculty and students in the College of Professional Studies, Sustainable Landscapes Design program, in partnership with GW staff. The Guidelines provide a framework for understanding the natural spaces at GW. They outline how to review, discuss, and determine improvements to each campus landscape space from an ecological, functional, and aesthetic perspective. The document outlines how best to achieve our ecological goals with respect to a unified campus appearance. Most importantly, the guidelines provide the framework by which to implement changes in the landscape. As opportunities arise to retrofit existing landscape infrastructure, the guidelines tell us where native plants, pollinator species, and beneficial vegetation should be used. This prioritization strongly influences our day-to-day maintenance decisions, and large scale capital projects in the landscape.

To attain this goal, GW has begun a variety of sustainable landscaping programs. These programs include Grass to Gardens, Pollinator Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Pesticide Free Landscaping, a commitment to the Tenets of Xeriscaping, and the publication of Sustainable Landscapes Guidelines.

Grass to Gardens is an effort to replace unusable patches of turf with native plant beds that will reduce runoff, bolster biodiversity, attract native invertebrates, and improve soil health. The native beds also reduce labor and noise pollution associated with mowing and other turf maintenance activities. Eliminating these unusable turf areas also allows GW to focus on large, usable turf that actually can be used by the university community.

GW's Pollinator Gardening program involves rehabilitating aging landscape beds with native flowering shrubs and perennials that provide food and forage for birds and invertebrates. These beds are strategically placed throughout campus to create a greenway, allowing pollinators to move through campus as they forage for pollen.

GW's Edible Landscaping program uses annual and perennial edible plant material to create aesthetically pleasing, edible garden beds throughout campus. GW grows Rhubarb, Hops, Basil, Peppers, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemongrass, and Pineapple Sage in display beds throughout campus. The edibles are then harvested and distributed biweekly to the university community during GW's Herb Giveaways.

GW's Foggy Bottom campus is also Pesticide-Free, allowing for unrestricted use and enjoyment of the university community. This year GW began a beneficial insect program to create native populations of beneficial insects to combat common plant pests such as aphids, scale insects, and mites. This program will continue to expand over the coming years as GW gathers data and begins to find the most effective methods of biologic control for plant pathogens. Not applying pesticides also helps to bolster efforts to increase biodiversity and create an edible landscape.

The Tenets of Xeriscaping serve as a framework for all plantings on campus. Basically, Xeriscaping entails planting the right plant in the right place. By identifying microclimates and choosing site appropriate plant material, GW can reduce water usage, improve stormwater infiltration, increase aesthetic appeal, and reduce labor. All of these results are extremely beneficial to the Grounds Management program and the campus ecosystem.

A brief description of the institution's approach to hydrology and water use:
Restoring and protecting the natural hydrologic cycles on campus is an intrinsic part of GW's sustainable grounds maintenance program. Expansion and construction on an urban campus tend to decrease permeable surfaces and have a detrimental effect on how water moves through the ecosystem. GW's commitment to environmentally conscious expansion includes the use of permeable paving material, green roofs, rain barrels, and native plantings to increase rainwater infiltration and reduce nonpoint source pollutants from entering the Potomac Watershed.

Native, site-appropriate plant material is used throughout campus to improve water percolation through landscape beds. The roots of these plants push through the soil and create a healthy rhizosphere, which increases beneficial soil organisms and battles compaction. A thriving rhizosphere also promotes better plant health and creates a living filter for nonpoint source pollutants that can leach through normal landscaping beds. Furthermore, GW’s Sustainable Landscape Guidelines stress the use of fast-spreading native ground cover and perennials. These “work horse” plants are known for their ability to colonize rapidly, thereby stabilizing soil, and slowing down storm water runoff.

The GW Grounds Team plants landscape beds using a layered system so that bare soil is covered from the “ground up” without gaps. The greater the leaf surface area, the more storm water can be captured. The Landscape Sustainability Guidelines discuss this in detail and provide plant pallets that serve as functional solutions for bare soil. During a landscape installation, GW installs plug plants on 12 inch centers to cover the ground quickly.

Trees play a vital role in creating a regenerative campus landscape because they provide such a rich variety of ecosystem services. GW has incorporated the Washington, D.C. Urban Tree Canopy Plan with the goal to increase the District’s tree canopy cover from 35 to 40% by 2032. The Landscape Sustainability Guidelines include tree planting specifications to meet this goal.

Permeable pavers are used throughout campus and serve to create areas for public use and enjoyment without causing a spike in effective imperviousness and disruption to the natural hydrology of the ecosystem. These pavers reduce sheet flow during large rain events and allow the water to infiltrate into the groundwater or be collected for irrigation use. In combination with our vegetated rooftops and cistern powered irrigation systems, the university is capturing and utilizing rainwater to improve aesthetics, reduce runoff, and protect adjacent watersheds.

Native, site appropriate plant material is used throughout campus to improve water percolation through landscape beds. The roots of these plants push through the soil and create a healthy rhizosphere, which increases beneficial soil organisms and battles compaction. A thriving rhizosphere also promotes better plant health and creates a living filter for nonpoint source pollutants that can leach through normal landscaping beds.

GW's sustainable landscape management practices are all linked together by the goal of creating a living, regenerative, ecosystem on campus. Protecting naturally occurring biologic cycles is not only beneficial to the environment, it also results in thriving, aesthetically pleasing landscape beds. Through prudent planning and an understanding of ecosystem interactions, GW is able to create a usable, beautiful, and sustainable campus landscape for generations of future students and community members.

A brief description of the institution's approach to landscape materials management and waste minimization:
George Washington University diverts food and coffee waste from the majority of food service vendors on its Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon Campuses. This compostable material is collected four (4) times per week by a third party hauler and delivered to Maryland Environmental Services (MES) for composting into their Leafgro Gold Product. In addition, all clean organic yard waste generated by the Grounds Department is collected and sealed in a 30 cubic yard container and brought to MES when full, for composting.

A brief description of the institution's approach to energy-efficient landscape design:
The Sustainabie Landscapes Guidelines instruct the use of plants that mitigate the urban heat island effect. Heavy introduction of ground cover and perennial plants adjacent to hard surfaces help reduce temperature. The re-radiating effect of brick surfaces on campus is reduced by the use of vines, green walls, and vegetation at the base of academic buildings. The university also has several green roofs on campus. Plant selection is key for success. Climate-appropriate plants are stressed wherever possible.

GW is committed to installing new landscape plants that require reduced pruning, fertilizing, watering, and treatment in general. The Landscape Sustainability Guidelines stress the use of perennials, shrubs, and trees that require 50% less maintenance than traditional plants. Placing plants closer together reduces the need for weeding equipment, such as string trimmers, edgers, and mowers. Allowing shrubs and trees to grow naturally reduces the need for pruning several times per year. These changes in cultural care greatly reduces our reliance on fossil fuel-powered equipment.

Rain water collection addresses the energy-water-climate nexus since it is a less energy intensive way of watering plants. For example the rainwater collections system in the GroW Garden captures up to 400 gallons of rain water for the garden and is in a visible place, bringing greater attention and awareness to the GroW Garden. The rain barrels also act as a canvas for a colorful mural done by a local artist that depicts the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The pump to transfer water from the collection barrels to the plants is solar powered. GW collects rainwater and reuses it for irrigation in sites all around campus.

And finally, GW has replaced more than 50% of exterior lighting with LED alternatives. Two other initiatives are described in response to OP-9 where renewable energy sources have been incorporated into the landscape to power LED lights along a walking pathway between two buildings and to allow students to recharge their laptops, tablets, and phones.

A brief description of other sustainable landscape management practices employed by the institution:
The GW Grounds Team procures many sustainable landscape materials. Primarily, our compost sourcing is of great benefit to the campus and our local community. By composting leaves and grass clippings that would have normally been disposed of in a landfill, GW's vendor, Maryland Environmental Service (MES), converts organic wastes into a valuable resource. The composting process begins in the fall when leaves are collected from Montgomery and Prince George's County and transferred to yard waste composting facilities where they are placed in windrows. In order to accelerate the decomposition process, the rows are turned and shredded on a regular basis. Beginning in the spring, grass clippings are added and the turning and shredding continues. After the composting process is complete, it is dried, screened and sold under the registered trade name - Leafgro®. In FY19, GW purchased Karbon Leaf Mulch from Loudoun Composting in all of our street tree beds. Karbon Leaf Mulch is a great organic soil amendment, adding nutrients to the soil over time; is more absorbent, which reduces watering needs; resists erosion; and helps cool the soil during the summer. Here is more information on this sustainable landscape material we used: https://loudouncomposting.com/karbon-leaf-mulch/. In FY2020, GW will be incorporating Leafgro into the campus landscape as a sustainable management practice, once again. When absolutely necessary, and when human safety is in question, GW applies Landscapers Choice with Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). CMA is an alternative de-icer that has fewer environmental impacts than road salt.

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:
GW launched the Sustainable Landscapes Guidelines in 2017. This report was prepared specifically for GW by faculty and students in the GW Landscape Design Program in partnership with GW staff, and it is intended to be used locally as well as shared with the public for use in comparable applications.

GW launched the Sustainable Landscapes Guidelines in 2017. This report was prepared specifically for GW by faculty and students in the GW Landscape Design Program in partnership with GW staff, and it is intended to be used locally as well as shared with the public for use in comparable applications.

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.