Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 61.51
Liaison Karen Eckert, Ph.D.
Submission Date March 5, 2021
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Principia College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
4.00 / 4.00 Karen Eckert, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
Center for Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Air & Climate:

Students are extensively involved in campus research related to Air & Climate, generally associated with Capstone credit. For example, students completed comprehensive (3-scope) campus Greenhouse Gas Inventories in 2015 and 2020, research into natural gas mitigation strategies to reduce our Scope 1 emissions (2019), and research estimating trends in carbon sequestration by The Principia Forest (2016).


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Buildings:

A number of Capstones and Final Sustainability Projects relate directly to "Buildings". For example, exploring RINS ("RECs for natural gas") and making recommendations on reducing the college's Scope 1 emissions; an energy audit of the college Guest House with recommendations related to upgrades of major appliances, insulation, and windows (in preparation for the audit, the student received his Home Energy Audit License with support from the Center for Sustainability); some students have achieved or are working on their LEED credentials, one of whom will apply that skillset in his Capstone research; and developing a Green Roof on the Science Center.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Energy:

In addition to the above (several of our Building projects also relate to Energy and/or Climate), a multidisciplinary Strategic Energy Management (SEM) team has met monthly since May 2018 to research, prioritize, and operationalize energy efficiency initiatives on campus (this included a 2-yr paid position for a recent graduate) and Capstone research has mapped the campus electric grid with an analysis of on-site solar energy production. See https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability/carbon-neutrality


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Food & Dining:

In partnership with Dining Services and the Center for Sustainability, students researched and assisted in the development of a Green Dining Standard, which was adopted by Cabinet in 2019.

Students are involved in the annual Green Dining Alliance audit. Students maintain a Sustainable Food blog. Several independent projects and courses (including Capstones) have examined producing food on campus, including a community farm, permaculture with raised vegetable plots, aquaponics, beekeeping, maple syrup production, sustainable tea and coffee purchasing, recipe revision to promote nutritionally balanced vegan options with each meal, and the potential to source local humane meat options.

Results have included a 3-year aquaponics pilot, campus Beekeepers Association, re-designed Community Garden, a Green Roof (which provides produce to Dining Services), and enhanced vegan options. The student who designed and installed the green roof also attended several professional conferences and received his Green Roof professional credentials with support from the Center for Sustainability.

The Biology department has planted a Food Forest and engages students in a popular Sugar Bush (maple syrup) class every spring. See https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability/sustainable-food


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Grounds:

The campus Tree Advisory Board includes student members, which are involved in making recommendations for tree conservation, care, and plantings. Students help to maintain/ manage Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) plots throughout the Principia Forest - through which students learn sustainable forestry techniques. Students have planted native gardens at their dormitories, led the planting of a 14-acre 670-tree native Food Forest on campus, published a campus tree inventory, conducted native pollinator surveys, evaluated water runoff issues, and designed rain gardens and permaculture landscapes.

Significantly, one student designed and planted a 5,500 ft2 native pollinator garden alongside the Science Center. See https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability/environment-water


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Purchasing:

Our Green Cleaning Purchasing Standard (see also OP-13) was the result of a Capstone research project advised by Sustainability faculty and undertaken in partnership with Facilities/Housekeeping, Dining Services, Contracts, and Work Place Safety. The Standard led to a Green Electronics Purchasing Standard, and sets the stage for others to follow (paper, furnishings). See https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability/purchasing


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Transportation:

The Principia College Solar Car team is comprised of students dedicated to making progress toward solar-powered transportation. The team is a successful global competitor and is active in bringing awareness of solar-powered transportation to the campus and alumni communities. See https://www.principiasolarcar.com/ In addition, students have researched and provided recommendations for plug-in stations, and have researched and provided recommendations for a Bike Share program on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Waste:

Capstone projects have focused on achieving zero waste, as well as increasing student access to composting. These projects have enhanced campus awareness of waste disposal issues and successfully integrated composting into 100% of our student residential dorms and academic buildings. Students are also active in reducing reliance on single use plastic bottles (campus sales of single-use plastic water bottles have declined more than 80% since 2011). Capstone have focused on reducing food waste, defining student "foodprints" (including water use and emissions), and creating outreach materials for Dining Services. See https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability/zero-waste


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Water:

Capstone projects have focused on parking surface runoff, rain catchment systems, and the use of rain gardens in sustainable campus landscaping. Recommendations were favorably received by the Facilities Department, and the rain garden designs were favorably received by architects contracted to renovate the college's art studio. The Sustainability Club and dormitory-based EcoHeads are active in outreach, including water conservation issues.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Coordination & Planning:

In addition to research noted above, including strategic energy planning, landscape-scale design, and a comprehensive GHG inventory, students are routinely involved in activities that require sophisticated planning. These include an annual Public Affairs Conference, Earth Day Fair, and other sustainability events on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Diversity & Affordability:

Students are active committees ranging from globalization of the curriculum to diversity/inclusion to conference planning (e.g., Global Perspectives Conference, PanAfrican Conference). Students are involved in peer mentoring, justice boards, and governance (e.g., Student Senate). Students are also active on key faculty committees, including the Scholastic Committee and the College Curriculum Committee which research, debate, and make policy related to equity issues.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Investment & Finance:

n/a


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Public Engagement:

The Center for Sustainability hosts a Change Maker Speaker Series, see https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability/academics/changemakers

In 2018, the student-led Public Affairs Conference focused on Urban Sustainability. The conference highlighted sustainable progress individuals around the world are pursuing and achieving and gave conference goers with ideas, inspiration, and encouragement to go out into the world and make a sustainable difference themselves. See http://content.principia.edu/pac2018/this-years-conference. For a history of other sustainability-related conference themes, see https://content.principia.edu/sites/pac2020/history/


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

Students are actively involved in many aspects of the new Wholeness Center, including peer-mentoring, counseling, mediation, and orientation. See https://prinweb.principia.edu/internal/wholeness


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to other areas (e.g. arts & culture or technology)?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to other areas:

Students have designed a Sustainability Walking Tour of the campus, started and maintained an apiary and a food forest, created a fall semester Sustainability Weekend and a spring semester Earth Day Fair, and collaborated with the Campus Store to inventory more organic, recycled, and locally sourced consumer goods. Students collect unused meal plan points from their peers, and use them to purchase durable goods at year's end for distribution through local food share programs. Finally, "campus labs" in the Introduction to Sustainability class give students the opportunity to evaluate the college's performance against the "One Planet Principles" criteria, as well as complete a C-sequestration exercise in the Principia Forest.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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There are so many documents that we could submit to support these various aspects of using the campus as a living laboratory. We hope soon to have our foundational documents, including our greenhouse gas inventories, carbon sequestration studies, building retrocommissioning results, and various sustainability Standards (cleaning chemicals, electronics, dining) posted to an FAQ menu option at https://sites.google.com/principia.edu/principiasustainability

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