Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.33
Liaison Sarah Tulga
Submission Date March 6, 2020

STARS v2.2

Northwestern University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Sarah Tulga
Sustainability Program Coordinator
Facilities
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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:

Northwestern’s Dining provider offers sustainability internships which have a large focus on campus and student engagement with sustainability. Interns create content for the Sustainability & Wellness blog. Previous topics have included, “Sustainability with Compass Group at Northwestern,” “What is Plant Forward?,” “GMOs: A Sustainable Choice,” and “A Sustainable Valentines Day.” Additionally, student interns help execute a variety of student engagement challenges and activities within our dining facilities. These include the 21 Day Plant Forward Challenge, NU Real Food events, and Stop Food Waste Day. Students assist in measuring the reach of these blog posts and help assess the effectiveness of the various onsite campus engagements for continuous improvement.

sustainNU offers work study opportunities where students participate in sustainability communications and engagement activities and contribute to understanding effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. In the Fall 2019, sustainNU coordinated its first ever Living Sustainably: Off-campus Resource Fair. sustainNU's work study student not only assisted with the development and execution of the event, but also in developing and administering a survey tool to measure program effectiveness, learning, and outcomes. Because of this survey, we now understand different engagement models which are more effective for undergraduate audiences and have a better understanding of which sustainability topics are of most interest to our students.


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:

Within sustainNU’s work study program, students have written, developed and implemented social media editorial calendars and online newsletter articles for our Sustainability website, media channels and newsletter. All of these digital channels serve a public face for Northwestern’s sustainability news, and are critical for disseminating knowledge and awareness to the general public. One student developed a social media campaign around sustainable buildings, utilizing our Energy Star POY award and LEED campus buildings to test if a more game style engagement strategy would resonate with our public audience. Engagement metrics across these platforms were evaluated to determine if this strategy was effective and which audiences it reached. This project led to a better understanding of how to advance sustainability awareness and knowledge using digital platforms within sustainNU’s public engagement efforts.


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:

sustainNU has work study and intern positions available where students analyze the University's GHG emissions and benchmarking. As part of the Sustainability Council coordinating the Sustainability Strategic Plan, students, faculty and staff worked together to make a series of recommendations for how Northwestern might reduce its carbon footprint, after analyzing current practices in the areas of air and climate and prioritizing solutions. These committees now act as a layer of accountability for the administration, as sustainability staff have presented updates of progress towards meeting Northwestern’s strategic goals and committee members have the opportunity to provide feedback on how to advance our goals around air and climate.

A group of student athletes also conducted a project to assess how much GHG emissions were generated through their air travel for away games. They then brought this information and a proposal of offsetting their emissions through urban forestry efforts to the administration. Staff are working with the students to assess the feasibility of this proposal and determine a path forward to advance Northwestern’s sustainability in relation to offsetting the University’s GHG emissions from team travel.


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:

During Northwestern’s 2018-2019 Green Cup, students led and conducted Treasure Hunts within their residential halls, residential colleges, and sororities and fraternities. These Treasure Hunts were based on the EPA Energy Star Treasure Hunts and focused on identifying building sustainability improvements which would be made within the categories of lighting, heating and cooling, appliances and electronics, water, recycling and waste, and infrastructure issues. These results were then given to sustainability staff and improved the administrations understanding of what infrastructure or other improvements would support sustainability within these buildings. Additionally, this program was so successful that it inspired sustainNU to develop a pilot program using this model, focusing on employee engagement to identify infrastructure and efficiency opportunities for campus office buildings. This pilot program is currently being developed and tested.


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:

Engineers for a Sustainable World is currently planning the construction a “Solar Tree,” which will provide seating and charging stations shaped like a tree that will help students charge devices outdoors with solar panels as the canopy. This project will advance the sustainability of campus, model a unique way to utilize solar, and reduce Northwestern’s energy usage from non-renewable sources.

Additionally, sustainNU student employees have led projects around building energy efficiency and assisted with the maintenance and quality of data within Northwestern’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager.


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:

Engineers for a Sustainable World are spearheading a campus wide program, Urban Agriculture, which designs and maintains hydroponics systems.

Northwestern Dining’s Real Food Interns use the Real Food Calculator to track purchases. They are also exploring opportunities with the Good Food Purchasing Program and designing a single reporting structure to encompass both programs for a greater impact on our sustainable food spend.

Wild Roots garden also focuses on sustainable food systems by teaching students about organic and urban gardening. The garden provides produce to the Norris University Center, offers workshops to NU students and presents to community schools on urban agriculture. Wild Roots is a student-directed garden which grows fresh produce for the Northwestern and Evanston communities using sustainable practices. Wild Roots serves the evolving educational and social needs of the Northwestern community by inspiring students to think critically about the food we eat and by starting conversations about sustainability, social justice, and our food system.


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 worked with the Landscaping department, Facilities Operations, and Planning and Design in order to update and complete Northwestern University’s campus tree inventory. As part of this inventory, Northwestern University now has a record of each tree within the canopy, species information, disease information as well as other pertinent information. Contracted arborists and grounds crews used this inventory to develop pest management protocols and to help treat diseased trees that were facing regional pests or other diseases (e.g., Emerald Ash Borer etc.). This inventory represents a completion of one of Northwestern Universities goals within the previous Tree Campus USA’s Tree Care Plan.

Students also serve as representatives on the Tree Campus USA Campus Tree Advisory Committee where they participate in discussions around Northwestern’s grounds and tree canopy and provide guidance on priorities and areas where Northwestern should advance sustainability. The committee just finalized the new 5 year Tree Care Plan and Goals with the input and assistance of the student representative.


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:

Student interns at Northwestern Dining focus on reporting food purchases to both the Real Food Calculator and the Good Food Purchasing Program, which inventories sustainable food purchases made by Northwestern. Northwestern is signed onto the Real Food Campus Commitment, pledging to purchase 20 percent “real” food by 2020 and submits its residential dining hall food purchases through this program. These projects advance our understanding of how sustainable and plant-based our purchasing is within our dining facilities.

sustainNU work-study students assess purchasing catalogs to identify sustainable products in support of establishing a baseline for sustainable procurement efforts. This sub-catalog of available products will help the University focus sustainable procurement guidance and support efforts to highlight more sustainable products.


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:

The Industrial Engineering & Management Sciences Client Project Challenge allows organizations to submit project ideas, including advancing sustainability in relation to Transportation (among others). For example, to further the University’s mission to promote and expand sustainable transportation options, Industrial Engineering students used the University’s infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory to assist the Office of Sustainability in conducting an assessment of electric vehicle charging on the Evanston campus and establishing utilization guidelines to increase accessibility and to provide a monitoring mechanism. Several recommendations that came out of this project supported the purchase of new EV charging units and the University EV charging policy. These efforts, have led to significant increases in average monthly unique EV drivers and charging sessions.


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:

Engineers for a Sustainable Worlds is coordinating Pura Playa (PP), which is focused on plastic waste reduction education and repurposing. PP addresses plastic use in our community and its effect on the environment. Their goal “is to educate ourselves and our community about plastic pollution and reduce plastic usage at Northwestern University.” They are currently working on Northwestern Thinks Outside the Bottle campaign, encouraging the University to go bottled water-free. Additionally, they are working on a recycling project and a microplastic filtration project to help combat plastic pollution.

NU Real Food organized a front of house composting pilot in Norris University Center. Waste stations were staffed by student volunteers who instructed users on diverting waste from the landfill through both recycling and composting efforts. NU Real Food partnered with Northwestern Dining staff on this program in an effort to understand how to roll out effective front of house composting. Additionally, NU Real Food conducts waste audits of food service operations and provides that information to staff. It informs Facilities of these numbers and this information helps inform Northwestern of its waste reduction and reuse decisions.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Water?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Water:
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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 Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

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

Students have served on the Sustainability Council, convened by sustainNU, to shape Northwestern’s strategic plan for sustainability. In the council, the students work with faculty, staff and administrators to examine Northwestern’s sustainability practices, identify room for improvements and make suggestions to the University about how to comprehensively integrate sustainability into our University. The research and planning done in this Council will shape the future of sustainability at Northwestern for years to come.

The Associated Student Government Analytics team is responsible for surveying the entire student body to gauge what initiatives and projects are most important to students. Data is analyzed for use in prioritizing causes students care about and creating a budget proposal for the following year, which is presented to senior administrators . Because of these surveys, many of sustainability projects and priorities have been added or addressed.

Additionally, student interns with Northwestern Dining assisted in the Food and Beverage Inventory for STARS to help the institution better understand the sustainability and plant-based items purchased for catering and within residential dining.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
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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 Investment & Finance?:
Yes

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

Two divestment movements on campus (Fossil Free Northwestern, NU Divest) are focused on implementing sustainable, socially responsible investment strategies at Northwestern. Fossil Free Northwestern is focused on eliminating investments from fossil fuels. NU Divest aims to divest from 6 companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The groups have conducted research on socially responsible investment models, fiduciary duty, and past divestment movements. NU Divest also led student lobbying for the creation of an Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investment, which Northwestern has now formed. This committee is made up of a coalition of students, alumni, faculty and staff.  As a result of their work, the campus has become more aware of issues regarding responsible investment and financial transparency.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
No

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