Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 60.89
Liaison Eva Rocke
Submission Date June 30, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Montana
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
4.00 / 4.00 Eva Rocke
Sustainability Director
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

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:

In spring 2019, a group of students in the Environmental Studies program's Environmental Citizenship class (a 400-level course) worked with the Office of Sustainability and the UM Athletics department to conduct a plug load inventory and design a behavior change campaign in the athletics department focused on energy savings. The students conducted a hands-on audit of athletics' space on campus to inventory all small appliances, computers, and printers. They also conducted a short survey of athletics staff to identify energy conserving behaviors and potential for behaviors that are more conservation-minded. With their results, the team of students designed a behavior change campaign targeting athletics staff and specific energy conserving behaviors that they identified as likely to succeed given staff feedback and behavior change science.


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:

In spring 2020, a group of students in the Environmental Studies Environmental Citizenship course (a 400-level course) worked closely with the Office of Sustainability to identify sustainability-minded faculty, staff, and students at universities across the state of Montana and connect them via a Montana Sustainability Network. The students built a spreadsheet with names and roles of the individuals they found, reached out to them via phone and email, and facilitated 3 meetings over the course of the spring 2020 semester with the intent of building a learning community of higher education affiliates around the state focused on sustainability. By the third meeting, 27 individuals from across the state participated and indicated an interest in continuing the network. The long-term purpose of the network is to share information, resources, and best practices for sustainability across higher ed.


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:

The Lubrecht Experimental Forest is a research and training forest owned by the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation and used by the College for research and educational purposes. One of the many facets of research conducted by students at the Lubrecht forest includes research on how tree species are responding to changes in climate.


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:

The Missoula College Sustainable Construction Technology program partners with local organizations focused on affordable housing and energy conservation to give students hands-on weatherization experience. http://mc.umt.edu/industrial-tech/sustainable-construction-technology/default.php

In spring 2020, a graduate student in the Master of Business Analytics program worked with our energy and utilities engineer to design a dashboard for us to better explore peak shaving of energy demand. See her final paper attached.


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:

All but one of the small-scale solar arrays on campus are the result of student proposals to our Revolving Energy Loan Fund, a student-funded RLF that has supported renewable energy and conservation projects around campus. The solar array on the Todd Building was first, proposed by a group of students in an environmental studies class in 2011. Most recently, the solar panels atop the Fitness & Recreation Center and the Lommasson building were added after students studied the potential energy generation, payback, and cost of solar panels and requested the funds from the Kless Fund.


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:

Food and dining at UM have been among the most consistent topics of student interest, engagement, and learning at UM. UM's Real Food Challenge commitment and completion of the first Real Food Calculator were driven by student interest and effort back in 2016 and have continued to drive change in this area of campus operations ever since. Every spring, summer, and fall, UM Dining supports a team of 4-6 garden interns to work alongside our full-time garden manager to grow produce that we serve in catering and in our dining hall. It was also student time and support that allowed us to complete an updated food procurement assessment for our 2021 STARS submission and a student that pulled together updated information on UM Dining's current sustainability practices for OP-8. In 2019, in partnership with Coaster Cycles, a local Missoula company, a student employee in our catering department researched alternatives to vans for on-campus catering delivery and was successful in writing a proposal and receiving funds to purchase UM's first pedal assist bike delivery vehicle for UM Dining to reduce their emissions footprint.


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:

UM's irrigation system on Main Campus is old and outdated. The manual valves require constant adjustment and staff time to turn on/off. Students complain regularly of overspray that waters our sidewalks. In 2020, this inspired a group of students to research and propose upgrading a large segment of our irrigation on campus in order to conserve water and reduce the labor needed to maintain our irrigation system. The team of 3, working closely with our Grounds Manager, investigated automation options, researched costs and scale, and submitted a proposal to our revolving energy loan fund to pay for the improvement. Their proposal was successful.

A second group of students, this time in spring 2019, bothered by the amount of turf grass that exists on Main Campus, met with the Office of Sustainability to express their concerns and discuss how best to make change. Eventually they met with our grounds crew and learned that one of the key concerns of moving away from turf grass and installing more native gardens is the shift from mechanized to manual maintenance that the shift would require and how much time their crew spends picking up trash around campus. They made the argument that if they could reduce their time spent collecting trash by even 10% that they would be supportive of adding native landscaping to campus. In response, the students developed a short video that they shared via social media highlighting the issue of littering around campus and featuring several of the grounds crew team members they met and spoke with. While it didn't result in the removal of turf grass, it was the perfect example of student interests, concern, and learning intersecting with our operations and professional staff at UM. Both parties learned a lot.


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:

In fall 2019, a student studying accounting in our College of Business approached the Business Services procurement manager about employment opportunities. He hired her as a part-time intern and asked her to help him develop a sustainability/"green" symbol for our "punch out" vendors that appear on the home page of GrizMart, our in-house purchasing platform. The student's name was Maggie and she worked throughout the fall semester calling our largest vendors to research their "green" product lines and label those in our database so that UM departments could easily identify and purchase more sustainable options for standard purchases.


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:

Students regularly partner with the Associated Students of the University of Montana Office of Transportation to better understand sustainability issues within our transportation systems. The fact that UM was one of the first campuses in the country to purchase fully electric buses for our university-owned fleet was only made possible by student leadership and participation. Student support for those buses over the last 3 years has meant that we're in the process of buying 3 more.

Similarly, we consistently have students propose additional (and better) bike infrastructure across campus and the Office of Sustainability has mentored a number of student projects focused on how parking management can support better and more equitable access to all campus affiliates. Because of student interest in sustainable transportation, several proposals for covered bike parking have been submitted to and funded by our revolving energy loan fund. In 2018, a group of business students interested in parking management and finances researched how to better use parking revenues to support active transportation options on campus and the feasibility of implementing an opt-in carbon fee for those who purchase annual parking permits.


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:

In spring 2019, a graduate student in the philosophy department quantified food waste being generated by UM Catering in order to propose back-of-house (pre-consumer) composting. By gathering food waste data and tracking solid waste volumes in our student union, he made the case that compost collection and service would pay for itself immediately. UM Dining adopted the proposal the following semester and the program has been a success ever since!


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:

In addition to student efforts to support water conservation by proposing and securing funding for more automated irrigation across campus (described in the "Grounds" section above), the campus stormwater management team enlisted the help of a GIS class in spring 2019 to map all of the dry sumps around Main Campus. The purpose of the project was to give students hands-on experience with GIS and mapping (including producing maps that are useful to stakeholders) and to give the stormwater management team useful documentation of stormwater infrastructure to use in construction projects, planning, and infrastructure improvements.


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:

In spring 2019, a small team of students partnered with the Office of Sustainability to plan and facilitate our 4th Campus Climate Conversation, a 3-hour event on campus that brought together students, faculty, and staff to learn about and discuss UM's carbon neutrality goal and progress. The students were responsible for doing all the research leading up to the event including looking into other schools' sustainability and climate action plans, other institutional goals, and the major levers of change that have worked at other schools. The event program included about an hour of technical presentations to the participants that focused on several climate action strategies that have worked at UM and those that we are actively considering (Combined Heat & Power, energy conservation, the revolving loan fund, carbon offsets, large scale solar, etc.). Then participants were given a series of questions to discuss in small groups pertaining to the strategies' feasibility and participant preference for each strategy. The event organizers collected participant feedback in order to generate a summary report and plan. UM committed to carbon neutrality by 2020 back in 2009 and developed a Climate Action Plan to guide that effort. This event in 2019 was meant to share an update with the campus community, recognize the hurdles we've faced in trying to achieve neutrality by 2020, and identify strategies that the campus supports as we continue our climate action work and plan for the future. The outcomes of the event include a summary report that included a prioritized list of climate action strategies. This list went to the University President and VP for Operations & Finance along with a letter from the Campus Sustainability Committee offering a series of recommended next steps. Since those recommendations were made, UM is pursuing Combined Heat & Power and additional energy conservation improvements in our buildings. While the outcomes haven't yet included a fully developed updated climate action plan, the feedback we received and the additional steps we've taken since spring 2019 have allowed us to move forward in a productive, coordinated way. A second group of students are about to write an updated Plan this fall, taking us another step forward.


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:

Every fall (even during fall 2020!), the Student Involvement Network, an office on campus staffed primarily by students, coordinates DiverseU. DiverseU is a week-long series of presentations, workshops, and keynote speakers focused on topics of diversity and promoting civil discourse. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members discuss, present, perform, and exhibit art throughout this event. One full-time professional staff member supervises the team of students responsible for planning, coordinating, and hosting the event.


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:

Throughout AY18-19, several top-notch student activists got very excited about the wave of fossil fuel divestment efforts appearing on college campuses across the country and decided to try and make something happen at the University of Montana. Working closely with a local investment professional in Missoula and the national divestment leadership, the students educated themselves on the topics of university foundations and the impacts of fossil fuel investments in the broader climate change picture. For an entire year, the students communicated with University of Montana Foundation staff and UM leadership in an effort to unearth the Foundation's actual investment details and get them to consider more sustainable options. The conversations politely lasted almost an entire academic year before the students decided they had heard enough excuses and that the more bureaucratic and diplomatic approach wasn't delivering the results they were hoping for. Eventually they organized a sit-in protest of the UM Foundation's office building on campus, wrote op-eds to the local paper and the UM student paper, and resorted to an all-out protest of business-as-usual. Throughout their efforts, the students were supported by the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Studies faculty, though they were only partially successful in their attempts to make change happen.


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:

While not a link to a "living lab program" at UM, it's worth including the link to our Kless Sustainability Fund since so many student projects and internships culminate in the submission of the Kless proposal. You can find many of these projects listed on the Kless website.

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.