Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.15
Liaison Lori Collins-Hall
Submission Date March 5, 2021
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Sterling College (VT)
OP-9: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.49 / 2.00 Kelly Jones
Buildings and Grounds
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total campus area (i.e. the total amount of land within the institutional boundary):
430 Acres

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds:
Area (double-counting is not allowed)
Area managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that uses a four-tiered approach 0 Acres
Area managed in accordance with an organic land care standard or sustainable landscape management program that has eliminated the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in favor of ecologically preferable materials 145 Acres
Area managed using conventional landscape management practices (which may include some IPM principles or techniques) 50 Acres
Total area of managed grounds 195 Acres

A brief description of any land excluded from the area of managed grounds (e.g. the footprint of buildings and impervious surfaces, experimental agricultural land, areas that are not regularly managed or maintained):

All the land on campus is included in the management plan to some degree. The majority of the management is done manually, with mowing machines, with livestock, or draft animal power systems. The buildings and their locations are considered in the management plan in accordance to how they affect the surrounding site. The campus also has 390+ acres of forested land, and a decent portion of that land is left as it is to allow it to go through its natural processes and utilized as an outdoors laboratory.

Percentage of grounds managed in accordance with an IPM program:

A copy of the IPM plan or program:

A brief description of the IPM program:

Percentage of grounds managed in accordance with an organic program:

A brief description of the organic land standard or landscape management program that has eliminated the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in favor of ecologically preferable materials:

We use no inorganic fertilizers or chemical pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.

Although we are not formally certified, we manage all of our gardens and landscaping on campus organically. The farm plan that we follow is based upon ecological principles, and all decisions are run through the Land Management Vision, vetted through the use of test questions.

The Land Management Vision is as follows:
Our land at Sterling College serves as a working landscape, living laboratory, and outdoor classroom used by faculty, students, and community members, for experiential place-based learning, hands-on skills development, production, observation of natural communities, recreation, and quiet enjoyment.

The management of the land strives to support a stable multi-functional resilient ecosystem, while providing a flexible and adaptable teaching space. To achieve this, the land in production needs to be managed in an efficient, integrated and mindful way by:

-Increasing biodiversity of species and genetics
-Making efficient and conservative use of energy
-Modeling the ecology of natural systems
-Increasing soil health and improving nutrient cycling
-Maintaining the ecological integrity of our watersheds and their associated components
-Remaining financially realistic
-Implementing effective systems of labor and administration
-Preserving historical landscape features
-Acknowledging the cultural heritage of the region
-Providing safe and peaceful spaces for the community

A brief description of the institution's approach to plant stewardship:

We have a full-time student position who is conducting monitoring of invasive species and developing a management plan, which will be enacted by All College Work Days as well as the Work position every year thereafter.

A brief description of the institution's approach to hydrology and water use:

Stormwater is an issue for the broader community and Sterling College’s land base plays a significant role in the town management of runoff from rain events and snow melt. The Sterling College overall mission reflects our commitment to land and water quality through sustainable and innovative land use practices.
Ninety percent of our 430 acre main campus and 100% of our 307 acres of off campus property is open space and includes forest, grassland, and wetlands which serve to capture much of the community’s stormwater runoff. The college’s total impervious surface (parking areas, walkways, roofs) is only 1.8 acres of our 430 acres, but we are very conscientious of our stormwater runoff. As we continue to grow as well as renovate our buildings and infrastructure, we are intentional about locating new construction to contour with the landscape, using Low Impact Development (LID) and Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) such as drip line trenches which discharge into natural swales.
Wetlands play a critical role in stormwater retention and filtration and over 350 acres of the college campus are State and National Designated Wetlands, including the Northern White Cedar Swamp on the main campus and Bear Swamp in Wolcott, Vermont. These wetlands are protected by law and not only provide valuable ecological services, but are important natural areas for conservation and natural history research at the college.
Sterling College is currently working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for the barns in our Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agricultural and Food Systems. This plan will help us capture runoff and ensure there is no nutrient loading into nearby waterways.
Several of Sterling College buildings stormwater runoff feeds into existing drains which flow through a main culvert into a small ditch managed by the town. This ditch travels 100 yards to a larger ditch alongside our significant wetland complex. Stormwater is naturally filtered through this area and then slowly migrates down slope for half mile towards the Black River. A recent survey of the Black River resulted in no significant impact from this practice.

A brief description of the institution's approach to materials management and waste minimization (e.g. composting and/or mulching on-site waste):

Cut landscape materials goes into compost (grass & leaves), we don't do anything with brush except let it rot out in piles. We maintain a close-looped system with our groundskeeping.

A brief description of the institution's approach to energy-efficient landscape design:

A brief description of other sustainable landscape management practices employed by the institution (e.g. use of environmentally preferable landscaping materials, initiatives to reduce the impacts of ice and snow removal, wildfire prevention):

In northern Vermont, this is quite the issue. We use no salt, but rather use minimal sand; we truck out snow to a remote parking lot and let it melt.

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

Sterling College was recognized as a Vermont Tree Farm in 1996. This recognition is for sustainable forestry which provides wildlife, water, wood and recreation benefits. The Vermont Tree Farm program is part of the American Tree Farm Program.

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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.