Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 65.64
Liaison Rachael Wein
Submission Date March 3, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Smith College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Emma Kerr
Campus Sustainability Coordinator
Office of Campus 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:

A summer intern working with the Office of Campus Sustainability in 2016 designed a "Shut the Sash" campaign in order to encourage lab-users to close fume hoods in science labs in order to save energy, reduce carbon emissions and improve safety. After conducting background research the intern discovered that an open fume hood costs about four times as much to operate and results in four times the amount of carbon emissions as one with a closed sash. She then designed an outreach campaign to educate and encourage student, staff, and faculty lab-users to shut the sash when leaving the lab.

The intern collaborated with Smith's energy manager, Building Services staff, Campus Sustainability staff, Science Center staff, and the Chemistry department to launch the campaign and to monitor whether fume hoods were being shut or not in various labs. To do this she created an educational sticker, prepared information to be incorporated into safety trainings, created and implemented a checklist system for data collection, and compiled data. Future parts of the campaign will include working with labs to improve their sash-shutting habits.


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 group of students in the Environmental Science and Policy capstone class (ENV-312) responded to student complaints of over-heated rooms in student residences. Recognizing that over-heated rooms negatively impact both students and the environment, they endeavored to measure how warm the rooms were getting, and if there is a connection between student health and well-being and the temperature of students' rooms. The students worked with ES&P faculty, Campus Sustainability staff, the Co-Gen plant manager, and the energy manager on this project. They used temperature loggers to measure temperatures in two recently renovated houses (Morris and Lawrence), and two un-renovated houses (Albright and Baldwin). They also surveyed 200 students living in those houses about their comfort.

The students found that Albright, which had not had a hot water heating system installed or undergone envelope sealing measures, experienced more overheating and student discomfort. Baldwin, which had undergone partial renovations, showed results similar to Morris and Lawrence houses. Furthermore, there were some indicators of slight overheating in Lawrence.

The students concluded that hot water heating systems are vital to increasing student comfort. They recommended the installation of hot water systems, further study to address experiment limitations, and greater engagement of students in addressing heating issues.


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:

Students in ENV 201 conducted a project wherein they researched the energy impact of student mini-fridges on campus. By collecting survey data and making calculations, students attempted to discover the total energy use of student mini-fridges. The students chose to conduct this research knowing that Smith has committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030, and that behavior change around the use of mini-fridges could contribute the carbon reductions. The students found that mini-fridges in student houses consume 225,964 kWh each year, which costs the school $34,685, and results in 195,448 lbs of CO2 emissions. As part of their student surveys, the group collected ideas for how to reduce students' use of mini-fridges, such as installing larger and more accessible community fridges and lengthening dining hall hours.


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 the fall of 2015, students in ENX 301 Climate Change and Sustainable Food capstone class conducted a report entitled "From Waste to Resource." The goal of the students' project was to shift thinking about food waste, and to help people realize that food waste is only wasted when we don't use it properly. Food waste is actually a resource and can be used for energy production and for the production of compost as a soil amendment.

The students analyzed the composition of Smith's food waste and other compostable materials and attempted to determine what method of decomposition would be best. They determined we could use windrows, a vessel digester, or an anerobic digester.

Students focused on the anaerobic digestion process, as it produces both fertilizing compost and generates a renewable source of energy: biogas. Burning this biogas could provide some of the college’s energy needs and offset some of the electricity that is currently generated from fossil fuels, therefore reducing the carbon emissions the college currently emits from burning natural gas. After running the calculations for anaerobic digestion it is clear that this process has the lowest carbon footprint of all disposal methods at -1,352 metric tons of eCO2.

Students worked with Dining Services staff, Building Services and Grounds staff, and Campus Sustainability staff, as well as outside companies who produce anearobic digesters.


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:

In November of 2015 Smith installed it's first experimental permeable pavement parking lot. Based on the design and research of a student, the 12 car lot on Mandelle road was transformed into a laboratory to test the effectiveness of permeable pavement. Instrumentation and access wells were installed prior to the pavement in order to give students and faculty members the ability to study how well the water is being infiltrated, and how the parking lot traps and filters harmful pollutants. Students and faculty members continually check the research wells and perform studies. This parking lot also serves as a pilot to study how well permeable pavement holds up in Massachusetts winters, with the hope that we can install more permeable pavement across campus in the future.


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:

Students in the Environmental Science and Policy capstone class (ENV-312) investigated the chicken purchased by Smith's Dining Services. In 2016 Smith signed the Real Food Challenge, committing the college to shifting 20% of our food purchases to real food by 2020. Currently 4% of the college's chicken purchases are considered real food. The students identified that RFC-approved chicken almost always costs more than conventional chicken. They found that trade-offs to purchasing RFC chicken include spending more money, serving less chicken overall, or serving less expensive cuts of chicken. In order to evaluate students’ preferences for these trade-offs, they conducted a taste test and survey. They found that while students are supportive of the RFC, their responses to the associated trade-offs (such as if they are willing to eat chicken with bones) are less clear and need to be investigated further.

In order to help Dining Services choose new chicken sources, the students researched a variety of producers and compared the top choices to conventional producers in a decision-making matrix. Categories related to the RFC were weighted according to stakeholders’ priorities in order to determine a composite score for each producer. Through this method, they found that RFC-approved producers are a viable option even when price differences are considered. Based on these findings, they recommend that Smith College purchase its chicken from Bell & Evans and Murray’s Non GMO Verified Chicken, two RFC-approved producers. The students worked closely with Smith's Dining Services Director on this project.


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:

Students in Introduction to Probability and Statistics conducted research on Smith's commuting data in order to see what factor contribute to single-passenger car commuting. The commuting data that the students used was collected by the Campus Sustainability Office in January 2016. Smith employees were surveyed about their commuting practices during a specific week in January, and over 800 responses were compiled. Campus sustainability staff used the data to calculate the carbon emissions of employee commuting, but had not been able to analyze the data further, so this student project helped provide valuable insight.

The students determined that employee type, age and commuting distance had a statistically significant relationship with whether or not employees drove 100% of commuting days. They reported that they are 95% confident that the true value of the odds ratio lies between 2.2 and 4.4, indicating that staff are at least two times more likely to drive 100% of the time compared to faculty. In addition, older employees and
employees with a longer commute were found to be more likely to drive to work 100% of the time, with p-values of 0.000145 and 2.2e-6, respectively.

Based on their findings the students recommended Smith College look into economic differences between employees and whether employees have children, set up a ride-share program with financial incentives and more flexible carpool permits, and research ways to expand public transportation (more frequent, longer schedule, more routes)
and make it more reliable and affordable.


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:

Groups of students in a Design Thinking class identified problems and issues on the Smith campus that they wanted to try to address and improve. One group, the "Trash Group," chose to try to improve the waste collection bins at the Campus Center Cafe. They noted that while the Cafe had recently undergone renovation and was a popular place on campus, there were major issues with the waste bins. The options given (bottles and cans, paper, and trash) are not appropriate for the food items served in the Cafe, the openings for items are not large enough or shaped well, and the bin itself is not accessible.

After identifying the problems, the students went through a process to better understand how to solve them. They conducted a waste audit of Cafe material in order to see what kind of items are disposed of there, and what kind of materials collection is really needed. They also constructed miniature prototypes and had other students go through and exercise of throwing mock items away to study behaviors and preferences. Lastly, based on their research and observations, they constructed a full-scale prototype of a new waste collection center. They piloted the center over the course of a week and studied how Cafe guests interacted with the center and how well they interpreted the new signage. They also conducted a waste audit to see how well the materials had been sorted in the new system. Throughout this process the students worked with Facilities, Dining Services, and Campus Sustainability staff.

The students found that overall their prototype was very successful and well-liked by guests. This spring Facilities Management plans to construct new waste collection centers for the Cafe based on the students' design and research.


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:

In 2016 a group of student worked with Geosciences professor, and Director of CEEDS Bob Newton to work with regulators and nonprofit environmental groups in order to develop innovative methods for managing the sediments that accumulate behind a dam on the Mill River, creating Smith's iconic Paradise Pond.

During an intensive 10-week program over the summer students monitored and analyzed a range of controlled experiments that attempted to flush sediment through the dam that creates Paradise Pond on the Mill River. Their project serves as a pilot to test the effectiveness of project based learning as a tool to teach environmental problem solving.


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

In 2014 Smith students formed the organization Divest Smith College to advocate for Smith's divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Since then the students of Divest have been active on campus, leading discussions that engage the community around the issues of divestment and impact investing, and facilitating workshops that provide students with organizing, advocacy, and leadership skills.

Additionally the students have met with Smith's VP of Finance and Administration to further their knowledge of how Smith's endowment is invested, and to learn about key factors such as the difference between direct and indirect holdings, and what co-mingled funds are. Based on student feedback Smith's VP of Finance and Administration created a 'road-show'-style presentation that he gave to various groups of interested students, which furthered our student body's understand of how endowments and investing work.

Additionally, two students sit on the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, which gives them learning and engagement opportunities, and to put their knowledge and passions into practice with the committee.


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

An intern with the Office of Campus Sustainability worked with the sustainability coordinator to develop a Sustainable Office Certification program. This student researched what programs existed at other schools and spoke with the sustainability staff running those programs to get a handle on the best practices in sustainable office programming. She then designed a program to help bring staff members on board with Smith's sustainability goals and to help them change their behavior to be more in line with achieving those goals. The program includes completing tasks and developing practices and habits in the areas of energy, waste minimization, recycling, green meetings, purchasing, and culture and learning. The culture and learning section includes developing positive workplace habits, incorporating sustainability into office culture, and creating a healthy and well work place.

We began piloting this program with 5 diverse offices in the fall of 2016, and will be reaching out more widely across campus this spring. Future interns will help design professional development workshops around creating behavior change for facilitators of this program, and they will also work on data collection and program evaluation.


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:

American Chestnut:
It is hoped that blight resistant chestnut hybrids will eventually be available in large enough numbers to begin restoring the American chestnut into natural forests. With this prospect in mind, the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability is sponsoring and supporting a series of experiments at the MacLeish Field Station with the goal of testing methods of restoring American chestnut hybrids into various natural forest communities of southern New England. These experiments include an investigation of chestnut seed germination ecology in a natural setting, the growth response of seedlings to forest gaps of varying size, the competitive interactions of chestnut with other native hardwoods, and an examination of the chestnut's response along a soil moisture gradient.

The chestnut project is designed to provide several levels or access points for student involvement. For example, the very interested student could use the chestnut project to develop her own one- to two-semester research project under the umbrella of the broader experiment, enabling her to work at the MacLeish Field Station and potentially develop connections with the American Chestnut Foundation at state and national levels. For students with less time to commit to an independent project, but with strong interests in conservation, this project has the potential to provide a larger number of students with the chance to work on American chestnut conservation for a day.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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