Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 88.59
Liaison Richard Demerjian
Submission Date Aug. 11, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of California, Irvine
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Brenna Biggs
Sustainability Analyst
UCI 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:

Campus as a Living Lab (CLL) interns have worked with UCI's Office of Campus Physical and Environmental Planning to develop and implement the UCI Green Labs certification program. The UCI Green Labs program works with principal investigators, lab managers, and students to educate and assist in the implementation of more sustainable practices in campus laboratories and help achieve Green Lab certification. The program provides resources and guidance in areas including energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, sustainable purchasing, and green chemistry.

The CLL interns have assisted in the development of resources and tools to help foster sustainability engagement amongst campus laboratories. For instance, interns have identified and recruited labs to participate in the program. Interns have also assisted with the Green Lab Certification process by analyzing results of green lab assessments, identifying areas for program improvement, educating labs on more sustainable behavior practices and how to apply them to their research, and preparing certification materials. Student interns created educational and outreach materials by maintaining and updating the UCI Green Labs website, creating virtual resources for participating labs, producing a quarterly newsletter for labs, helping to communicate news and tips for improving lab sustainability, and assisting with the creation of quarterly workshops/informational sessions.

View UCI Green Labs: https://sustainability.uci.edu/green-lab/


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:

CLL interns were first trained by UCI Nature, which provides opportunities for students to bring their research, scholarship, teaching, public service, and developing careers out into the natural environment in a wide diversity of settings characteristic of California. Then, CLL interns participated in the following activities to support public engagement:

• Docent-led interpretation of natural and land use history and research activities
• Organized and conducted stewardship activities such as native planting, weed control, and trail maintenance
• Participated in or led citizen science projects involving data collection
• Led a social media campaign to increase awareness of local conservation issues

View UCI Nature: https://nature.uci.edu/


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:

A CLL intern assisted the EarthReps program, which provides student training and community building internships for undergraduate on-campus residents offering education, skills, and hands-on experiences broadly related to sustainability. The CLL intern focused on sharing and implementing new “Cool Block” curriculum that focuses on tangible actions students can take to reduce climate change. The intern led a group that focused on implementing actions that would reduce the carbon footprint in on-campus student housing by refining daily lifestyle practices.

View EarthReps: https://housing.uci.edu/Sustainability/earthreps.html


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:

CLL interns assisted with outreach and marketing related to energy conservation and green buildings. The interns helped create and launch a social media campaign and video series about green building features for on-campus residents.

Additionally, interns helped develop and implement the Green Room certification program, which audits living spaces in buildings to check for energy efficiency and other resource-saving practices while demonstrating energy-conscious behaviors for building users to implement.


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:

A CLL intern developed and implemented an outreach program for energy efficiency, particularly in housing. The program focused on decreasing the use of “vampire appliances” that continue to consume energy when not in use, such as computers, fans, and lights.

Additionally, as mentioned above, CLL interns developed the Green Room certification program, which audits living spaces to check for energy efficiency and other resource-saving practices. By participating in the program, residents gained a foundational understanding of best practices for conserving energy and accomplished quantifiable energy savings by making small changes in their daily habits. Interns analyzed the data collected from room audits and behavioral surveys to see if participants showed an improvement in making energy-conscious lifestyle decisions.


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:

CLL interns have worked with UCI Housing and Dining to identify and address obstacles to achieving zero waste (90% or higher solid waste diversion) in retail food courts on the UCI campus. Student interns took a deeper dive into the UCI food waste program by examining case studies at other institutions. Interns determined how to find better food donation pathways as well as how to divert some of the food waste into animal feed (rather than anaerobic digestion into power), which better aligns with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) “best use” hierarchy.

CLL interns created and implemented educational programming and conducted research on food waste at UCI. Interns engaged on-campus residents in educational programs on composting and/or culinary skills for sustainability-focused meals. Interns also updated the College Sustainability Cookbook, which shares the “real” price of food, what to look for in ingredients, and how it all affects the environment, communities, and economy.

View the College Sustainability Cookbook: https://sites.google.com/uci.edu/housingsustainability/cookbook


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:

CLL interns supported the food production of an on-campus housing garden, Verano Place Community Organic Garden, which offers plots to community members to encourage them to grow their own food. Interns focused on the orchard and developed guides, logs, and data entry related to annual procedures such as planting and web management.

Additionally, CLL interns created annual curriculum and developed a procedural manual, resource guide, and training materials for future use for the Little Ants Nature School, an outdoor training program for children of graduate students in the Palo Verde and Verano Place on-campus housing communities. Little Ants Nature School uses outdoor spaces on the grounds of UCI to inspire children and their families to connect with the natural world and with each other within the UCI Community, all while having a fun, interactive time together. Little Ants Garden School provides safe, active, and engaging experiences for children and their caregivers to learn about the environment and sustainability, and to sow the seeds of environmental stewardship, wellness, and care for the community. CLL interns coordinated weekly lessons for the Little Ants Garden School in graduate and family housing, trained additional volunteers, and provided hall programming and community outreach.

View the UCI Garden Project: https://sustainability.uci.edu/engagement/gardenproject/

View the Little Ants Nature School: https://sites.google.com/uci.edu/housingsustainability/little-ants


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:

CLL interns worked alongside Facilities Management to study the UC policy on plastics and developed an educational campaign that focused on reducing the use of plastics, particularly single-use plastics, by all.

Students created the UCI Single-Use Plastics Policy Implementation Guide and shared the mission with UCI Procurement Services regarding plans to eliminate the purchasing and use of single-use plastic in different stages, starting with eliminating plastic bags in January 2021 and ending with eliminating single-use plastic water bottles by January 2023.


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:

A CLL intern researched alternative commuting options, such as bicycle rental programs. The intern meticulously researched the UCI ZotWheels program, which was created by UCI Transportation and Distribution Services to decrease the carbon footprint by offering affordable, environmentally sustainable, and increasingly accessible forms of transportation and bringing the first automated self-service bike share program in California to the UC system.

For the ZotWheels program, the CLL intern researched additional areas (e.g., nearby student housing areas) where bicycle access should be expanded and started a social media campaign to raise awareness about the start of the program as well as gauge the reactions of students and members of the public.

Note: UCI is currently exploring new bicycle share options as the campus community begins to return to campus after being primarily remote in 2020 and 2021.


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:

CLL interns supported the annual donation drive during campus move out in June and supported the related waste reduction/recycling effort by planning and implementing the logistics. The donation drive is done to ensure that material is collected & donated instead of trashed. The interns collected and analyzed data related to zero waste, as well as performed marketing and outreach activities to other students and campus stakeholders.

Additionally, as mentioned above, CLL interns created the UCI Single-Use Plastics Policy Implementation Guide to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastics, starting with eliminating plastic bags in January 2021 and ending with single-use plastic water bottles in January 2023.

Additionally, as mentioned above, CLL student interns improved the food waste program at UCI by examining case studies at other institutions and determined how to find better food donation pathways.


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:

A CLL intern collected and analyzed water data on campus, identified process improvements, and recommended innovations to minimize potential water waste in order to identify changes that were needed to reduce the campus water use by 10% within one year and set goals for future years. The intern worked with the Facilities Management Sustainability Manager to improve campus sustainability through all facets of water use and conservation on campus.


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

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

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

CLL interns worked with the Fresh Basic Needs Hub, which provides food and other basic needs to students at free or reduced costs, to design a Community Resource Guide website, highlighting free and reduced cost programs that are accessible in UCI’s surrounding area of Orange County. All of the programs in the guide help make the college lifestyle more affordable for all. Some programs that the intern highlighted provide assistance specifically to diverse ethnic and racial groups who historically experience barriers affecting access to treatment.

Additionally, another CLL intern worked with the UCI Sustainability Resource Center (SRC), which unleashes youth leadership for community resilience to a changing climate and cultivates a campus culture of sustainability. The CLL intern created an internal database as a reference for users to learn about environmental justice, sustainability, and how it intersects with racial justice and equity. The intern incorporated articles about capitalism and exploitation, the existence of eco-apartheid in our global environment, Black Lives Matter and Climate Change to help readers understand the intersectionality of racism and the environment.

View the FRESH Basic Needs Hub: https://basicneeds.uci.edu/


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

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

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

A Campus as a Living Lab intern worked with UCI’s Fresh Basic Needs Hub to address students’ access to basic needs, including food, housing, clothing, technology, and mental and physical health. The student intern created a Community Resource Guide website, highlighting free and reduced cost programs that are accessible in UCI’s surrounding area of Orange County, including resources for wellbeing, such as physical and mental health resources, foundations, and programs that provide financial assistance to students in need of those resources.

View the FRESH Basic Needs Hub: https://basicneeds.uci.edu/


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Projects and initiatives currently in progress or conducted within the three years prior to the anticipated date of submission were included.

About the UCI Campus as a Living Lab Program:

UCI’s Campus as a Living Lab (CLL) program is a hybrid seminar and internship experience that offers a unique interdisciplinary opportunity for undergraduates to become sustainability leaders on campus while preparing for the green careers of the future. Students can participate in a three quarter seminar that introduces sustainability concepts and how they can be applied to our most pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges. Concurrently, each student partners with a UCI staff member working to improve the sustainability of campus operations, systems, and practices through applied projects. The desired outcome is for students to gain hands-on experience and conduct applied research and projects to meet actual needs.

An additional example of sustainability in the Campus as a Living Lab program that was not mentioned above:

One CLL intern assisted the UCI Sustainability Resource Center (SRC) in researching and responding to current topics such as wildfire resilience, environmental justice, COVID and public health as they relate to sustainability. The student drafted educational outreach posts and maintained bibliographies.

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.