Overall Rating Bronze - expired
Overall Score 36.66
Liaison Howard Ways
Submission Date Feb. 17, 2012
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.1

University of the District of Columbia
PAE-4: Sustainability Plan

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Joshua Lasky
Sustainability Manager
Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have a sustainability plan that meets the criteria for this credit?:

A brief description of how multiple stakeholder groups were involved in developing the plan:

On September 9, 2010, President Sessoms announced the formation of the University Sustainability Task Force, which requested that each Dean and Vice President name one staff or faculty member and one student to represent their school or division. The group met bi-monthly from October 2010 to December 2010. One additional meeting was held to review all draft recommendations on January 13, 2011. Lastly, open house presentations for the entire university community (faculty, staff, students, alumni, and local environmental advocates) were held January 24 and 30, 2011 to share the preliminary findings of the task force. The co-chairs also presented to a group of public officials at the District Department of the Environment on February 14, 2011. A copy of these presentations was made available at the UDC Sustainability Initiative web site at www.udc.edu/sustainability. Information on the Task Force was also provided during the four public Campus Master Plan
meetings held between October 2010 and January 2011.

The University Sustainability Task Force was charged with developing a strategic vision for sustainability at UDC. By committing to a long-term sustainable future, the university is publicly challenging some of the misperceptions of sustainability activities, particularly, that such actions are too costly and too difficult to implement. The Task Force spent an appreciable amount of time researching best practices from higher education institutions all over the country to address these misunderstandings head on. Having recently celebrated the 160th anniversary of its founding, UDC recognizes that one of its greatest strengths rests in its longevity. UDC’s sustainability initiative is a long range effort. Its implementation will require decision making that is based on life-cycle costs accounting for return on investment, with respect to both financial costs as well as broader economic terms, such as productivity and efficiency.

A brief description of the plan’s measurable goals :

Material Flows

• Establish green procurement policies and practices including a checklist for all vendors to submit which articulates their sustainability practices.
• Create a robust three-tiered waste management system – recycling, composting and true trash – to measure the university’s performance in all aspects of the waste stream.
• Perform an annual on-campus waste audit to both educate the university community on waste management practices but also establish baseline data for year to year progress evaluations.

Food Systems

• Develop a food system which promotes local, regional, urban and rural agriculture certified organic food options drawing upon a closed-loop model.
• Develop a collaborative, interdisciplinary food systems program using the Agricultural Experiment Station’s (AES) Research Farm site and the expertise of the Cooperative Extension Service (CES).
• Support the creation of a small community garden on the Van Ness Campus to be organized and maintained by students.

Energy, Water, and Climate

• Implement utility benchmarking system for tracking energy, water, and GHG performance in campus buildings.
• Develop strategies to overcome regulatory and logistical obstacles to utilizing various energy financing mechanisms, such as energy performance contracting and revolving loan funds, aimed at improving building system performance. As an instrumentality of the District Government, UDC is prohibited from issuing bonds, carrying debt and entering into energy performance contracts, all of which are common financial tools used by other universities instituting deep energy retrofits.
• Develop a climate action plan.

Student Development and Community Engagement

• Develop a communication strategy which utilizes publications, events, campaigns and media to raise awareness of good sustainability practices and how to integrate them into everyday life.
• Develop ways to reward and incentivize compliance and innovation for greener behavior among students, faculty and staff.
• Develop strategic partnerships with community-based organizations that focus on sustainability to advance service learning and provide internship opportunities for students.

Planning and Administration

• Establish an Office of Sustainability (OS) with its own dedicated operating budget.
• Staff the OS with students from across academic units hired as champions to promote sustainability among the student body.
• Create a publicly accessible dashboard, managed by the OS, to allow people to track the progress of sustainability indicators.
• Implement policies to promote better environmental stewardship and data management in university operations such as a double-sided printing policy. Hold Vice Presidents, Deans, Department Chairs, and other university leaders accountable for introducing and enforcing such policies.
• Pilot small, manageable sustainability policies with quantifiable outcomes (especially cost savings via short-term simple paybacks) to demonstrate achievable successes.
• Establish sustainability captains for each department who would be responsible for making sure their department complied with sustainability objectives. Empower student sustainability leaders to engage staff and faculty on topics such as behavior change.

Scholarship, Research, and Service Learning

• Provide faculty incentives for sustainability course development (such as time off or reduced course load).
• Reinvigorate existing research centers by creating an umbrella body, a Sustainability Institute, which will house a group of sustainability-related research centers.
• Expand the number of sustainability-focused and -related courses offered regularly.
• Involve students in faculty-led campus-based research projects seeking to improve energy and resource efficiency and reduce waste.
• Improve the instructional quality of courses by utilizing the external expertise in sustainability within the metropolitan Washington, DC area, including offering Adjunct Professor positions to recognized subject matter experts.

A brief description of how progress in meeting the plan’s goals is measured:

The University Sustainability Task Force understands that access to high quality data is tantamount to high performance; good management is predicated on good measurement. While some data is available to assess the university’s baseline sustainability performance, current management processes and physical infrastructure do not widely exist to support active, ongoing measurement and verification. Performance indicators are critical to measuring sustainability progress at UDC. The following is a list of indicators on which the UDC Sustainability
Initiative plans to regularly report, making the information publicly available online.
1. Greenhouse gas emissions (scopes 1, 2, and 3)
2. Energy source mix
3. Energy consumption and spending
4. Carbon offsets purchased
5. Recycling diversion rate
6. Solid waste produced
7. Electronic waste recycled
8. Construction and demolition waste
9. Furniture waste
10. Organic waste composted
11. Potable water consumption
12. Operability of drinking fountains
13. Bottled water consumed on campus
14. Building occupant thermal comfort satisfaction
15. Sustainability-focused and -related courses offered
16. Recycled content of ongoing consumables such as copy paper and paper towels
17. Campus cover imperviousness
18. Tree canopy coverage
19. Transportation modal split
20. Food purchased locally

To succeed in tracking, and ultimately improving, performance in each of these areas, a fundamental change must take place. The entire university community must take part in a culture shift to ensure better stewardship—not just for our environment, but for data. The quality of our quantitative performance measurements is directly tied to our institutional ability to make well-informed, data-driven decisions for the improvement of sustainability throughout the university.

Fortunately, the university does not have to invent the framework for measuring its sustainability performance. Numerous independent rating and ranking systems exist which provide the necessary guidance. The Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Ratings System (STARS) is a self-reporting framework designed by and for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability outcomes. STARS was developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) with broad participation from the higher education community. UDC is a Charter Participant in STARS and will submit documentation for its initial rating by February 2012. Though UDC is presently committed to utilizing STARS to manage performance and develop sustainability-related goals, additional assessment frameworks and surveys will be completed as requested by the coordinating entity and when practical
for benchmarking and communicating progress.

The website URL where more information about the sustainability plan is available:
The year the plan was developed or last updated:

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.