Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.48
Liaison Andrew Iacona
Submission Date Sept. 28, 2020

STARS v2.2

Northern Arizona University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Matthew Muchna
Sustainability Manager
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:

The Office of Sustainability collaborates with multiple classes, capstones, and groups on campus. As an office of one staff member, this collaborative effort is crucial to further spread the culture of sustainability on campus and enable students to act amidst a global climate crisis. In the fall 2019, a group of regents, professors, researchers, faculty, and staff gathered to talk about what institutionalizing the ‘Living Laboratory’ concept and imbed it into our university fabric.
The Sustainable Campus Ecosystem Initiative (SCEI) was born in the fall of 2019 after five steering committee meetings with key group of 8-12 individuals, and two large brainstorming meetings with upwards of 60 individuals representing administration, faculty, research, operational staff, and students. The Office of Sustainability Manager co-facilitated the discussion around current challenges faced at presenting operational issues into classroom, curriculum and utilizing the world-class carbon/greenhouse gas researchers we have here at NAU. We are still in the early stages of this large effort and it has spurred a Carbon-Mitigation task force to secure researchers to turn their eye locally to our campus and figure out how to rapidly reduce our carbon output.
The goal of this initiative is to enable student learning opportunities and campus-wide engagement through data sharing and a direct connection to operations to tangibly be able to see their impact. It is an ambitious, culture-changing initiative that we are hopeful will elevate the student experience and success as well as benefit our campus footprint and multi-party collaborations.

Some specific example projects:
ENV 120- Every semester, hundreds of Environmental Science and Sustainability degree seeking students enroll in ENV-120. The Office of Sustainability works with the instructors and GA’s to direct their labs throughout the semester, a requirement of the course. In years past, we have asked students to interview sustainability professionals across the community to understand the work they do. This past year, we had students make class presentations across the university about the basics of Climate Change science and provide an update of our current Climate Action planning process. This enabled freshman to get engaged with the planning workshops and feedback sessions as well as grew the numbers of members in the Green Jacks student club, which now predominantly has freshman members while in the past it was primarily juniors and seniors. We plan to continue to ingrain this type of active learning into ENV 120 to further encourage our students around climate action and provide an outlet for the high rates of climate anxiety and dread found in this major.

FIN 441& 442 – Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF). This two-semester course engages student to manage real university dollars. The culmination of the course results in a presentation to the foundation board about their performance and lessons learned. This year, we hope to make a strong case for the foundation to enact a divestment transition plan with the performance and potential financial risk as leading reasons to divest from fossil fuels. (View: https://nau.edu/franke/experiential-learning/smif/)

ENV 567 - In the fall 2019 semester, the Office of Sustainability worked with a graduate level Climate Science and Solutions class focused on Climate Adaptation. We separated the students into five focus areas; Energy, Justice, Transportation, Waste, and Water. These groups helped facilitate the four Climate Action workshops at the beginning of the semester, and then held a Climate Adaptation form in November of 2019.
Green Fund Research Grants – The Green Fund committee is comprised of primarily student representatives and manages the budget from the $15 Green Fee every student pays each semester. This past year, the committee decided to set aside $20,000 for student research grants. The main stipulation was that the research had to focus in on a campus sustainability issue and then present their information to relative operational staff. The focus areas consisted of Composting, Plastic Waste, Renewable energy, and Sustainable Transportation. The Green Fund awarded six students with grant money for the spring 2020 to initiate on-campus research. One awarded graduate student focused on transportation, has outlined a transition plan to electrify our facilities fleet.


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:

NAU Capstones: Compost
The focus of marketing capstone is to understand the market for selling compost in Northern Arizona. The City of Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University currently have an IGA for processing City’s pre-consumer and Parks and Recreation's clippings to divert it from the landfill. NAU is able to sell excess compost through NAU Property Surplus to help fund infrastructure and cover some labor costs associated with the NAU Compost operation. The Marketing class is to focus on how to communicate sustainability, closed loop systems, and how to better connect people to their waste with the goal of boosting sales of excess NAU compost.


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:

NAU Graduate Student, Joseph Thomas, submitted a Green Fund Proposal to fund a Pulsar800 Campus Environmental Monitoring Station on our campus to be used in Green House Gas Accounting (ENV591) and other Environmental Science courses. The Campus Environmental Monitoring Station (CEMS) will provide a sophisticated weather station and air quality monitor to Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff Mountain Campus. This station itself will collect real time data on weather variables (such as air temperature, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction,solar radiation, lightning detection, humidity, and air pressure) and air quality (particulate matter (PM 2.5 and 10), nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and carbon dioxide). Currently, Northern Arizona University does not have a weather station or air quality meter that collects data on all of these variables simultaneously. Micro climate conditions across the city of Flagstaff result in disparate weather, necessitating a campus focused environmental monitoring system. For example, a recent snowstorm (December 23-26, 2019) provides evidence of this disparity with 14.1 in of snow accumulating at the Flagstaff airport, 5-10 in. in west Flagstaff,and only 2-3 in. in east Flagstaff despite these locations being only 1-3 miles away from each other (National Weather Service Flagstaff). A highly advanced environmental monitoring station, as proposed in this application, will provide a long term data set of each of the variables described above, specific to campus, and at high resolution. Current weather stations on campus collect simple weather data such as temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and humidity. The primary weather station that collects year round data is run by the School of Earth and Sustainability (https://www.cefns.nau.edu/~nauws/index.html). The Campus Environmental Monitoring project seeks to expand on NAU’s current capabilities and provide more sensitive sensors for each of these variables as well as collect new ones such as solar radiation, lighting detection, doppler radar capabilities, and air quality measurements.


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:

NAU M.S Building Science student work closely with campus facilities, project managers, and utility services to monitor on-campus building efficiency and evaluate the performance of our LEED Buildings. https://nau.edu/construction-management/ms-building-science/


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:

NAU Solar Capstone Fall 2020: A mechanical Engineering capstone is set to test and analyze existing NAU solar thermal technology that is not currently in operation. The goal of the tests is to determine the performance of the system, on a BTU/day basis, in order to inform the economics of future solar thermal designs. This analysis can in turn inform future decisions regarding the approach to carbon neutrality and other emission reductions of NAU’s campus heating systems.

The NAU Solar Capstone team has been working throughout the Spring 2020 semester to design a solar thermal system for the Engineering building that can heat the internal hydronic loops, offsetting some of the heating load from our centralized natural gas boiler plants. The main goal is to decrease the use of natural gas and associated emissions from the South Campus boiler plant, thus promoting NAU’s goals of becoming more environmentally friendly. At the current stage of the project, the exact performance of a solar thermal system has been estimated using a government based, System Advisory Model. The purpose of the testing is to validate the online modelling software and hand calculations to best inform the performance and economics of this renewable energy technology on the Flagstaff Mountain campus.


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:

Student interns and employees worked with Dining Services to compost pre-consumer and post consumer food waste. This compost is distributed back to our lawns, into our gardens, and the students work with community organizations to provide left over compost to community gardens and leftover food to local food banks through the Food Recovery Network.


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:

Student interns worked with NAU staff to develop and test a sustainable landscaping program to eliminate herbicides and inorganic fertilizers from test plots. Results from these studies encourage operations managers to expand the scale of these test programs.
Howard Coldwell, compost engineer, gives multiple tours and presentations of the composting program to diverse classes.
We hire 2-3 Student Gardeners to maintain the 3 student-gardens on campus. They engage in local botany and lead 50-100 student volunteers each year to do restoration projects.


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 Climate Science and Solutions graduate student completed an internship to create the Procurement section of the Sustainability Action Plan. This student worked with Sustainability and Purchasing staff to implement the language documented in credit OP-11.


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:

Transportation and bicycle improvement programs including bike lockers, bike rentals, bike repair stations and a new transportation plan for a section of campus to make it more bike friendly came from student interns and volunteers on the campus Transportation Action Team. The transportation Action Team has engaged a core team of 10 students, staff, and faculty to conduct a bike-rack utilization study this past year using ARC-GIS. They are working with the landscape architect to better locate the bike-racks to further serve the campus needs.


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:

Student interns and employees worked with Dining Services to compost pre-consumer food waste. Dozens of students volunteer to improve recycling and composting at NAU's annual Green Football Game. The volunteers also assist with recycling education at tailgating events.

There is a Climate Science and Solutions graduate student working to calculate our scope III emissions from waste water. This project started in the summer 2020.


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:

Student resident assistants implemented a strive for five, shorter shower program.

The Action Group for Water Advocacy (AGWA) brings together first year seminar students, graduate students from the sustainable communities program, and community partners to address one of Flagstaff’s most pressing and often controversial concerns: water use.


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:

The Northern Arizona University Green Fund is NAU’s main source for sustainability funding and is student lead committee with supporting faculty and staff volunteers. The Green Fund provides funding for projects that reduce the university’s environmental footprint and galvanize a culture of sustainability on campus. University students, staff, and faculty may submit project proposals, which are reviewed and selected for funding by our committee of six students supported by staff and faculty advisors. Projects are supported by the $15 per student, per semester Green Fee, which adds up to a yearly budget that is upwards of $630,000. The Green Fund allows students to utilize their fee money to make campus a better place for themselves, their peers, and future students. Most recently, the Green Fund decided to fund the 2020 update to the Climate Action Plan, when funding was no longer available from Administration. https://in.nau.edu/green-nau/nau-green-fund/


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:

The Office of Sustainability created a Diversity and Inclusion position to serve as a liaison between diversity student clubs and the diversity councils on campus. This student has been engaged in building relationships and serves as a student voice for diversity, inclusion, and affordability in the 6 Diversity councils that meet monthly. This student also hosts an annual Social Justice Day to further draw awareness and resources to major inequality issues faced locally on our campus such as food insecurity and mental health.


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:

FIN 441& 442 – Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF). This two-semester course engages student to manage real university dollars, over $2,000,000 this past year or 1% of our endowment. The culmination of the course results in a presentation to the foundation board about their performance and lessons learned. This year, we hope to make a strong case for the foundation to enact a divestment transition plan with the performance and potential financial risk as leading reasons to divest from fossil fuels. (View: https://nau.edu/franke/experiential-learning/smif/)


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:

Graduate students in physical therapy provide free services to employees, their families, and even community members.


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:

We have been engaging the Living Lab framework at a high level through our Sustainable Campus Ecosystem Initiative (SCEI). The 2020 Climate Action Plan will be the cornerstone project for the SCEI as we focused our local research expertise, student learning, and staff challenges around rapidly reducing our carbon footprint. A majority of this data came from engaging with different faculty and staff to learn about the many initiatives happening on campus. There are many more I am sure that I have missed. We have a campus of dedicated faculty and a strong culture and legacy of sustainability at NAU. We continue to look for ways to further engage students in active-learning opportunities to think globally and act locally.

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.