Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.79
Liaison Katharine Gross
Submission Date Feb. 26, 2021

STARS v2.2

Lehigh University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Katharine Targett Gross
Sustainability Officer
Office of Sustainability
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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:

There are undergraduate Events Assistants within the Office of Sustainability that collect and distribute information on sustainability events, initiatives, and programs. They help to further engage the campus community and the broader, public community in a dialogue about sustainability. Additionally, there is a graduate student, the Campus Engagement & Outreach Graduate Assistant, who facilitates Lehigh's participation in national competitions/events, organizes major sustainability events on campus, and plans campus and public engagement events and activities. These student positions have resulted in increased campus AND public engagement.


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:

There are undergraduate Events Assistants within the Office of Sustainability that collect and distribute information on sustainability events, initiatives, and programs. They help to further engage the campus community and the broader, public community in a dialogue about sustainability. Additionally, there is a graduate student, the Campus Engagement & Outreach Graduate Assistant, who facilitates Lehigh's participation in national competitions/events, organizes major sustainability events on campus, and plans campus and public engagement events and activities. These student positions have resulted in increased campus AND public engagement.


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:

Students in US Environmental Policy and Law, under the mentorship of Professor Breena Holland, assessed traffic-related exposure to black carbon particulate matter on pedestrian routes that walkers and cyclists could avoid if a pedestrian bridge were installed as an alternative route for crossing the Lehigh River.

During rush hour traffic in the city of Bethlehem, there is frequently a build up of traffic on and near the two existing bridges, which brings idling or slowly moving vehicles in close proximity to pedestrians who are crossing the river on the downwind/eastern side of the Fahy Bridge, or on either side of the Hill to Hill Bridge. To assess the extent of exposure to black carbon particulate matter pedestrians could avoid if they did not have to traverse these high-traffic areas, students conducted simultaneous monitoring of black carbon levels in the area where pedestrians walk on the northern end of the Fahy Bridge, and just upriver from this location, on Sand Island, where the northern landing of a proposed pedestrian bridge could be located. There was significantly less black carbon recorded in the area of the proposed pedestrian bridge than there was on the vehicle bridge.

This report on black carbon exposure in Bethlehem is part of a course that focuses on laws and policies that have been established to protect the environment. Students in the course learn about the different political institutions that shape environmental policies at the federal level in the United States and the relative responsibilities of state and local governments to protect the environment closer to home. The course also considers the political nature of environmental issues and the social forces influencing environmental protection in different areas of domestic environmental policy, such as climate change, toxic waste disposal and natural resources conservation.

This black carbon air pollution study exemplifies Lehigh’s commitment to engaging students in environmental sustainability practices that go above and beyond the campus community. The findings are being used to promote the installation of a pedestrian bridge that would benefit Lehigh University students, but also improve walkability in Bethlehem, lower carbon emissions within the city, and diminish environment-related health problems, such as asthma and other respiratory disorders, which the local health departments have identified as a top priority in the local community.


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:

Beginning in Fall 2019, a group of computer science and business students began a project with a faculty, staff mentor, and an industry mentor. This project aims to develop a campus energy dashboard that shows EUI and energy usage for each building on campus using an interactive campus map. This project helps to identify and target buildings with high energy usage for retrofit projects on campus.


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:

The Office of Sustainability in collaboration with LU Facilities initiated the development of a Climate Action Strategy in 2020. Students from Lehigh's Industrial Assessment Center and Energy Systems Engineering Graduate Program assisted with various elements of this project including energy audits and energy financing analysis. Through this strategy and the associated energy audits, the students will help establish a path to carbon neutrality for Lehigh.


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:

In spring 2020, a group of students began working on a leftover food app and web interface called Hungry Hawks. This builds on a leftover pilot that was done via the GroupMe platform two years prior. During the project, the student identified the problem, goal, and established a solution.

The problem was that every day departments, offices, and clubs hold events and meetings across campus with food. There was often leftover food at these events and meetings. Prior to this, there was no platform to communicate this leftover food to the campus community. As a result, this leftover food was often thrown away.

The goal of this project was to determine a platform through which leftover food from events and meetings can be communicated to the campus community. This would allow faculty, staff, and students who notice leftover food at an event or meeting to post about it on the platform and it would give students who are looking for food the opportunity to come take it.

The solution was to create an app and web interface for leftover food on campus. Through a notification system, students through the app or web interface are notified about leftover food.


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:

Students taking Ecology course (EES-152) study of relationships among organisms and their physical environment. Students have been using the Lehigh Experimental Forest as a natural laboratory for the ecology class for the past years. There has been no maintenance of the forest, so there is really cool succession. The professor and students recognize the value of the forest plots in understanding the behavior of our forests. The following lab activities take place throughout the semester:
-Forest Ecology: investigations in the Lehigh Experimental Forest
-Forest Ecology: investigations in the Lehigh Experimental Forest
-Forest Ecology in the Lehigh Forest Plantation. Plant identification quiz
-Population ecology in the Lehigh Experimental Forest
-Population demography in the Lehigh Experimental Forest

See more details about the course: http://www.lehigh.edu/~rkb205/ecology.htm
Recent activities in Lehigh University's Experimental Forest: https://amongthestatelytrees.wordpress.com/tag/lehigh-experimental-forest/


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:

Students, under the supervision of Office of Sustainability staff, work with Dining Services to research food procurement practices, analyze total spend and participate in supply chain management goal setting to increase the purchase of local, organic, humane and fair trade products at equal or similar costs. Dining Services is actively working with those students to identify new local suppliers and those without OSHA/NLRB violations. As a result of the student efforts in partnership with Dining Services, in 2019-2020 Lehigh purchased 20.3% real food.

Students may not have previous experience or skills prior to the start of this experience, but training and education are an integrated component of this experience.


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:

Two Lehigh students developed a draft Bike Master Plan for Lehigh University. This project included recommendations such as: a cross-campus cycle way, bike rack locations, comfort stations, etc. This involved extensive research, engineering analysis, and mapping. The students got to work in collaboration with the Office of Sustainability and Transportation & Parking Services. They presented their final results at the end of the project and those have been incorporated into a final Bike Master Plan that will be implemented at Lehigh over the next decade.


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:

A group of Technical Entrepreneurship capstone students began working on a project called "Eliminating Contamination to reach Lehigh's Waste Diversion" goals in spring 2020. The problem statement for this project was that global shifts in the recycling market have put pressure on domestic facilities to reduce contamination in the recycling stream. Contamination means incorrectly sorted, dirty, and/or partially full items. Lehigh needs to significantly reduce recycling contamination so that it is not rejected by the hauler. The vision statement is to develop smart, automated trash, recycling, and compost bins. These smart bins will eliminate contamination because they will scan the materials as they are inserted. The bins will be programmed to only accept allowable materials that are clean and empty. The students have done extensive research and developed engineering drawings for these bins. They have begun to develop a working prototype.


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:

A group of students working with the Office of Sustainability staff did a survey on all water bottle refill stations on campus that resulted in the maintenance of several stations in 2019. Additionally, every Fall and Spring semester, the students do an inventory on the progress made towards plastic bottle diversion. This progress inventory helps the Office of Sustainability and LU Facilities to identify future actions and engage students on sustainable actions they can pursue.

There was also an initiative to install water bottle refill stations at the Centennial School, which was achieved in May 2018 through a sustainable initiative grant. The number of plastic water bottles used by both students and teachers has greatly declined due to this initiative.


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:

In the spring of 2019 the Socio-cultural Foundations of Environmental Policy class, under the direction of Professor David Casagrande, completed a Sustainability Impact Assessment on the potential closing of Packer Avenue to vehicular traffic.

The Sustainability Impact Assessment addresses the various aspects of sustainability that may be impacted by closing Packer Avenue to vehicular traffic, including impacts to sense of place, local businesses and the arts, the natural environment, emissions from traffic and vehicles, pedestrian mobility, and safety and emergency access. This report implemented input from students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the surrounding community and key stakeholders at the University, in order to best represent all potential impacts, both positive and negative, that could arise if such a project were carried out to close Packer Avenue to vehicular traffic.

This Sustainability Impact Assessment was part of a course that is based on the premise that social and ecological sustainability require new policy approaches. Drawing on social, organizational, and behavioral theory, students learn techniques for analyzing and critiquing existing environmental policies and designing more effective policies. Case studies highlight how cultural values, social norms, public opinion and politics shape policies and their outcomes. The entire policy process is examined, from how environmental problems are defined, to how organizations implement policies and how policies are evaluated.

Publishing this assessment emphasizes Lehigh’s commitment to engage students in sustainable principles that go above and beyond the campus community. This project helped bring together the community, while also bringing to light important potential impacts of closing this main throughway.


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:

One of the objectives of living laboratory projects (conducted in 2019-2020) is to develop a website where first-generation students at Lehigh University can share, through written narratives, photographs, and videos, their stories about their Lehigh experience with other first-generation students from low-income households, from elementary to high school, in the Lehigh Valley. We would like to use the website to disseminate the Lehigh University’s initiative to recruit qualified first-generation students from low-income households through our students’ voices. The challenge is to simultaneously reach principals, teachers, students, and parents. The effort will support the University’s Path to Prominence strategy by attracting and retaining academic talent from a plurality of socioeconomic origins. The community will benefit as these students, in time, become role models to other students in their communities.


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:
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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 Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

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

The Lehigh Valley Parklets project started in 2017 and continued through 2019. The aim of this project is to improve the pedestrian experience in urban neighborhoods to create safer, cleaner, greener, friendlier, and more walkable communities. The team designed and constructed a parklet on a main street in Bethlehem with 27 feet of flowerbeds. The parklet was built by only four students and only took 15 minutes to install. (text taken from https://wordpress.lehigh.edu/parklets/)

See link for more information:
https://ei.cas2.lehigh.edu/sites/ei.cas2.lehigh.edu/files/1Parklet%20Expo%20Poster-ilovepdf-compressed.pdf

https://wordpress.lehigh.edu/parklets/

https://www2.lehigh.edu/news/parklet-pops-up-on-south-side-bethlehem


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The data above was not impacted by COVID-19 and therefore is representative of a normal year.

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.