Overall Rating Reporter
Overall Score
Liaison Chelsea Hamilton
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

Vanderbilt University
EN-3: Student Life

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Reporter Chelsea Hamilton
Sustainability Outreach Coordinator
Sustainability and Environmental Management Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an active student group focused on sustainability?:

Name and a brief description of the active student groups focused on sustainability:

• Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR): SPEAR’s mission is to increase environmental awareness and promote more environmentally sustainable habits and infrastructure within the Vanderbilt and Nashville community. Various projects sponsored by this organization include: cardboard crew, compost discovery area, house energy competitions, Climate Change Solutions Week, pollinator garden, Rites of Spring recycling, and a First-Year Sustainability Representatives Program
• Vanderbilt Student Government’s Environmental Affairs Committee: This committee works to make Vanderbilt a more sustainable university by collaborating with students, faculty, and administrators on a host of environmental issues with hopes of making Vanderbilt a leader in developing practical and effective solutions. Recent projects have included collaboration and feedback on institutional renewable energy projects, fossil fuel divestment, a sustainability-themed thrift shop, and charity events for Australian wildlife.
• Owen Graduate School of Management Net Impact: Owen Net Impact is a member of the larger Net Impact community with over 150 student and professional chapters worldwide. Net Impact aims to positively contribute to a community of new leaders in fields such as corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, international development, and environmental sustainability who will use business to improve the world. Net Impact has in the past hosted events such as a Green Career Symposium, “Green Week” and the Net Impact National Conference. This group has also partnered with the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office to devise business plans and programming for various environmental projects and efforts on campus.
• Vanderbilt Initiative for Vegetarian Awareness (VIVA): VIVA aims to advocate a healthy lifestyle that has a positive effect on humans, animals, and the planet.
• Environmental Law Society: The Environmental Law Society is an organization for students interested in learning more about environmental law and environmental legal careers. This group has sponsored numerous speakers, panels, and activities since its inception and aims to strengthen relationships between Vanderbilt Law students and local environmental groups.
• National Arboreal Project: The Nashville Arboreal Project's mission is to educate Nashville's youth about the environment while reinvigorating our community's connection to nature by planting the seeds for a greener future.
• Wildlife Conservation Club: The Wildlife Conservation Club’s mission is to promote animal welfare in the contexts of zoos, entertainment industries, research facilities, and the wild (i.e. anti-poaching and habitat preservation) via education, fundraising, and volunteering.
• Wilderness Skills (WilSkills): Wilskills, Vanderbilt’s outdoor experience club, incorporates a focus on environmental protection as part of their curriculum. This includes holding lectures on environmental protection of surrounding ecosystems, campaigning to spread awareness about animal conservation, and requiring every member to participate in at least two volunteer recycling events per year.

Does the institution have a garden, farm, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, or an urban agriculture project where students are able to gain experience in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems?:

A brief description of the gardens, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery programs, and/or urban agriculture projects:

• Vanderbilt Community Garden- The Vanderbilt Community Garden, previously student-run, was transitioned to a new more central location on campus in FY20. The new community garden continues to use the efforts of the Vanderbilt Community Garden student group with support from the Campus Dining and Facilities groups. The garden will include more than just plants and produce, it acts as a testing ground for sustainable gardening methods. The garden is available for use by the broader Vanderbilt community, as well as creating strong ties to the Vanderbilt Children and Family Center who will use the garden as part of their curriculum. Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR) currently manages the garden. https://anchorlink.vanderbilt.edu/organization/vandygardeninitiative/about
• Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden – Latin American ethnobotanical garden features 49 of the most culturally significant plants from the region. The garden was opened in 2017 and is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS). The species selected reflect CLAS’ particular research strengths in Mexico, Central America, Brazil, the Andes, and the Black Atlantic regions. The garden contains a sage section, an agave section and an annual section, which features important food crops like amaranth, corn, squash and beans.
• Menus of Change Advisory Group – the Menus of Change Advisory Group works to advance the Menus of Change principles at Vanderbilt. Co-founded and jointly led by Stanford University and The Culinary Institute of America, the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative is a working group of leading scholars, food service business leaders and executive chefs from invited colleges and universities who are accelerating efforts to move Americans toward healthier, more sustainable plant-forward diets.
• Community Garden Advisory Group – This group was formed in 2018 to recommend a new community garden on Vanderbilt’s campus. The group consisted of faculty, administration, staff, and community members from across the University and Nashville. The group is working to develop plans for a new community garden to be installed in 2020 that integrates student participation, community involvement, educational opportunities, and food provision for both VU and the community.
• The Food Waste Working Group is a subset of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative Advisory Committee. The Food Waste Working Group is focused on helping Vanderbilt achieve food waste reductions. The working group includes a variety of staff, faculty, and students from across the university. The working group liaisons to the Zero Waste Advisory Committee and will help them devise a strategy to meet their Food Waste reduction goal that will be set at the conclusion of the Zero Waste Plan.

Does the institution have a student-run enterprise that includes sustainability as part of its mission statement or stated purpose?:

A brief description of the student-run enterprises:

Hydrodore is a student run business that supplies water dispensers to campus clients, increasing water accessibility and reducing plastic waste on Vanderbilt’s campus and in the greater Nashville area. https://hydrodore.org/

VanderBIKES is a Vanderbilt student run organization offering bicycle rentals by the day, semester or year. The program gives the students the ease of bicycle transportation without having to worry about storage and maintenance and encourages students to explore Nashville beyond Vanderbilt’s borders. http://studentorgs.vanderbilt.edu/vanderbikes/
Leaves Plates is a company which produces various types of fully biodegradable flatware and helps alleviate some of the rampant pollution on a global level. The flatware produced by Leaves Plates aids its customers lead a more sustainable lifestyle posing zero threat to the environment and leaving no ecological footprint. The company is run by Vanderbilt students.
In spring of 2018, Vanderbilt students participated in bringing ofo to campus for a pilot program and acted as representatives for the company. Ofo was the world’s first and largest station-free bike sharing platform.

Does the institution have a sustainable investment fund, green revolving fund, or sustainable microfinance initiative through which students can develop socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible investment and financial skills?:

A brief description of the sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives:

¥ Vanderbilt Green Fund - The Vanderbilt Green Fund is a fund of $150,000 set aside for sustainability projects proposed by students. Members of SPEAR and VSG established the Green Fund in the spring of 2011. The VGF looks for innovative and educational ideas that improve sustainability on campus. The Vanderbilt Green Fund (VGF) was designed to systematically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and improve the sustainability of Vanderbilt University by funding student-initiated projects with both environmental and economic benefits, and by enabling students, faculty, and administration to engage in the process of transitioning to a clean and sustainable energy future. Any student, faculty, or group associated with Vanderbilt University can propose a project for consideration. https://www.vanderbilt.edu/sustainability/what-we-do/vanderbilt-green-fund/
• Eos Project - The Eos Project is a microfinance internal grant initiative that supports innovative initiatives at Vanderbilt University to promote understanding of urgent environmental issues and social action-pathways to respond to the challenges of climate change. The goal is to energize attention to environment/society concerns in diverse disciplines and campus constituencies. The project organizes programming and offers small grants and fellowships to support faculty and students to develop the vision, knowledge, leadership skills, and networks needed to address pressing problems at the intersections of ecology and social justice, where the well-being of human communities is inseparable from the well-being of more-than-human life-worlds. https://news.vanderbilt.edu/tag/eos-project/

Has the institution hosted a conference, speaker series, symposium, or similar event focused on sustainability during the previous three years that had students as the intended audience?:

A brief description of the conferences, speaker series, symposia, or similar events focused on sustainability:

Vanderbilt hosted its very first Green-a-thon event aimed at collecting student ideas for the 2020 Vanderbilt Green Fund. The Green Fund is a $150,000 fund set aside each year put towards student ideas on making the campus greener. While in the past this has been done through an online submission processes only, this year Vanderbilt Green Fund Committee held a special competition that brought students together to come up with original ideas for improving the sustainability of campus. In the style of a hack-a-thon, teams of students brainstormed sustainability proposals for the Vanderbilt Green Fund. During the events, teams consulted with campus sustainability advisors, and after the brainstorming session teams presented their ideas and a panel of judges scored each idea. The winning proposal from the Green-a-thon was forwarded directly onto the Green Fund final round of funding, and the remaining proposals were submitted to the general applicant pool for the Green Fund.

Tatiana Schlossberg, a New York Times journalist and author, came to Vanderbilt Law School to discuss her book Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have. She spoke of our everyday practices and their effect on climate change and the environment, focusing on the aspects of our lives that we may not see as being particularly harmful to the environment. This event was a collaboration with three organizations within the Vanderbilt Law School and Urban Green Lab, a local environmental organization.

VSG Environmental Affairs Committee hosted a pop-up thrift shop in January 2020. Over a thousand items including blouses, pants, shoes, coats, blankets, and even some electronics were donated and were available at the event for students to “shop” for free. The event was intended to reduce clothing waste, bring awareness to sustainable fashion, and promote equity, while allowing students to add “new-to-them” items into their wardrobe without a cost.

Because the Spring 2020 semester went remote due to COVID-19, in-person events were suspended and many events originally scheduled for Spring 2020 were rescheduled.

Other lectures and events:


Event, Vanderbilt Student Government Pop-Up Thrift Store
Event, Vanderbilt Green-A-Thon
Event, Zero Waste and Sustainability Leaders Pop-Up
Event, Turner Family Center Social Ventures Summit
Jonathan Gilligan, Assistant Professor Earth and Environmental Science: The Climate is Changing
Tatiana Schlossberg, author of ‘Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have’
Event, Society of Women Engineers FutureVU Impact
Event, Ecology and Economics Conference: Liberating People and Planet
Event, Coffee’s Interdisciplinary Intersections
Event, The Science Behind Climate Change
Panel Discussion, Climate Careers Week
Event, The Commons Cup Sustainability Forum
Event, Climate Change and Health Seminar Series
Event, Think, Engage and Articulate Talk Event: Climate Change
Event, Nuts and Bolts of Nutrition and Sustainable Eating
Event, SPEAR Commons Energy Use
Event, FutureVU – The Engineering Perspective
Event, Future of Fashion
Event, Environmental Justice Workshop
Event, 2020 ELPAR Symposium: Roads to Nowhere in Four States: State and Local Governments in the Atlantic Southeast Facing Sea-Level Rise
Event, What is Environmental Justice
Event, Coffee Talk: Third Wave Coffee, Maya Farmers, and the Creation of Value


Dave Reidmiller, Director of 4th National Climate Assessment, and Joe Casola, Deputy Director of University of Washington Climate Impacts Groups: National Climate Assessment
Xiao Recio-Blanco, Director of Ocean Program at Environmental Law Institute: International Environmental Law and the World’s Oceans
Event, Making Nashville Living Building Ready: Materials and Community
Panel Discussion, Sunrise Movement
Laura Barker, Vanderbilt Plant Operations horticultural specialist: VU Life Phase Series ‘Raised-Bed Gardening with an Expert’
Event, Behavioral Wedge Workshop
Panel Discussion, Environmental JusticeDr. Shirley Meng, University of California San Diego Sustainability Power and Energy Center: “Enabling High Energy Long Life Rechargeable Batteries by Advanced Materials Diagnosis and Operando Characterization”
Emma Banks, Warren Center Graduate Student Fellow: “Rising from the Ashes: Remaking Community around Conflict and Coal”
Event, VSG and SPEAR Transit Lunch and Learn
Event, Nashville’s Affordable Housing Crisis
Panel Discussion, Nashville’s Affordable Housing Crisis
Dr. Erik Sperling, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences at Stanford University
Event, Vandy Cooks: “Cooking Unfamiliar Vegetables from the CSA Box”
Event, Vanderbilt Farmer’s Market
Event, International Student Orientation Resource and Vendor Fair
Event, University Resources and Services Fair
Event, Fall Planting Palooza
Tiffany Wilmot, area businesswoman: Solar Project Development
Danny McKissack and Laura Barker, Vanderbilt Plant Operations Grounds Maintenance team: Fall Gardening with the Experts
Event, Community Supported Agriculture Boxes Bring Local Produce to You
Event, Webinar: DOE and Biological Sciences
Event, Nashville Meeting of Air and Waste Management Association
Event, Commons Unplugged
Robert Bullard: The Quest for Environmental and Climate Justice
Wil Burns, Co-Director, Institute for Carbon Removal Law & Policy, American University School of International Service: Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies & Human Rights
Stephanie Stuckey, Sustainability Services Coordinator at Southface Institute and former Chief Resilience Officer for the city of Atlanta: Where Hope Meets the Streets
Event, Kitchen Table Series: How Does Climate Change Affect Women?
Al Gore, Former Vice President of the United States: Global Climate Crisis Presentation
Event, PARKing Day
Event, Greenest Commodore on Campus
Event, Free Bike Safety Class with Vanderbilt University Public Safety
Event, Food Scrap Cooking Competition
Event, VSG Sustainable Fashion Pop-Up Thrift Shop


Event, Green Fair
Event, Getting Around Nashville
Michael Skipper, Executive Director of the Greater Nashville Regional Council: Middle Tennessee: The Future of Mobility in a Changing Region
Chelsea Hamilton, Vanderbilt SEMO Sustainability Outreach Coordinator: Greening Your Home and Personal Life
Event, Green Poetry Reading
Isaac Ullah, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at San Diego State University: Computational Modeling, Archaeology, and the Anthropocene
Commons Unplugged
Event, PARKing Day
Michael Vandenbergh and Jonathan Gilligan, Professors at Vanderbilt University: River Talks
Jason McLennan, creator of the Living Building Challenge: The Power of Transformative Goals
Event, Making Nashville Living Building Ready
Event, Bike to Vanderbilt Day
Vicki Arroyo and Jessica Grannis, Georgetown Climate Center: Climate Change Update: People, Policies, and Place
Amitav Ghosh, author: Commodities, Conflict, and Climate Change
Deborah Coen, Professor at Yale University: Hapsburg History for the Anthropocene
Yoram Bauman, economic and environmental comedian
Panel discussion, Additional Perspective on the Nashville Transit Plan
Blake Hudson, Houston Law Center: Relative Administrability, Conservatives, and Environmental Regulatory Reform
Event, Vanderbilt Transit Forum
Mike Gunter, Professor at Rollins College: Tales of an Ecotourist: What Travel to Wild Places Can Teach Us About Climate Change
Michael Mann, Professor at Pennsylvania State University: Climate Connections
Event, What is Nashville’s Transit Plan Lunch Talk
Panel discussion, Careers in Environmental Law
Event, Tu B’shvat Shabbat
Daniel Raimi, Professor at the University of Michigan: The Fracking Debate: The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution

Has the institution hosted a cultural arts event, installation, or performance focused on sustainability with the previous three years that had students as the intended audience?:

A brief description of the cultural arts events, installations, or performances focused on sustainability:

¥ Green poetry event: Vanderbilt Creative Writing held a Green Poetry reading co-sponsored by the Program in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Eight poems were selected to be read that were thematically related to the environment, eco-consciousness, and the place of humans in the natural setting. Cash prizes were given to the winners.
¥ ReVerb: Created by the Kefi Project, ReVerb is an attempt to take the ordinary things of life and to remind us that they can be used in beautiful and unexpected ways. In partnership with SEMO, Kefi completed an interactive, musical installation in conjunction with the American Gamelan Concert held at the Blair School of music. The installation celebrated reuse and recycling. The art installation demonstrated the wide range of options we have to reuse and recycle everyday items, and echoed the percussion/musicality of the Gamelan by being a musical instrument itself. The art piece included three interactive pillars, each representing one of the three pillars of consumer sustainability – reduce, reuse, recycle – with each pillar being made out of a different recyclable material. https://www.vanderbilt.edu/sustainvu/2015/02/blair-school-of-music-vortex-percussion-presents-the-american-gamelan/ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152819963618920.1073741835.234117583919&type=3
¥ FutureVU Pop-Up Events: Vanderbilt launched a series of “pop- up” projects aimed at activating outdoor spaces around campus in a sustainable way. Projects transform underutilized spaces with the goal to green and beautify campus spaces for the enjoyment of all, promote a sustainable and walkable campus, encourage community building and social interaction and celebrate creativity and artistic expression. Events included programming like yoga classes and collaborative interactive art creation that used re-purposed materials. In addition, many of the events highlighted ongoing sustainability efforts and projects.
¥ Bottled: An Exploration of Water and the Plastic that Often Contains it. Created by the Kefi Project, and composed of over 2,228 plastic water bottles collected from the Vanderbilt campus, the three installations that make up Bottled explored the many components of this liquid integral to our existence. Launched on March 22, 2014 (World Water Day), each piece had its own distinctive message, ranging from sustainability on campus to the limited access of clean water around the globe. https://kefiproject.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/bottled/
¥ Vortex and the American Gamelan: Hosted by Blair School of Music, this event celebrated the world music legacy of Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison. This orchestra, built entirely of recycled metal is “the most beautiful instrument on the planet,” according to Lou Harrison. This unforgettable orchestra of metal — one of only four in the world — traveled 900 miles to Nashville.
¥ Film Screenings: The Vanderbilt organizations SPEAR (Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility) and VFJ (Vanderbilt Food Justice) often hold film screenings on sustainable topics for the student body to watch and participate in a panel discussion after. Examples of these screenings from the last year include “Cowspiracy”, “Food and Empire: Black Gold”, and “Food and empire: The Price of Sugar.” Campus Dining also hosts film screenings including “Just Eat It.”

Does the institution have a wilderness or outdoors program that follow Leave No Trace principles?:

A brief description of the wilderness or outdoors programs that follow Leave No Trace principles:

Wilderness Skills is Vanderbilt University’s premier outdoor experience. The entirely student-run course is designed to integrate academic study with practical experience in the wilderness. It utilizes both the classroom and the environment, combining lectures, films, and discussions with trips to the surrounding areas. The trips are designed to teach students the basic techniques of backpacking, caving, rock climbing, and whitewater paddling. As man is not only an explorer, but the product of the natural world, students are taught the proper methods of coexistence with the environment without harmfully altering it. http://studentorgs.vanderbilt.edu/wilskills/?page_id=56

Has the institution had a sustainability-focused theme chosen for a themed semester, year, or first-year experience during the previous three years?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused themes chosen for themed semesters, years, or first-year experiences:

All first-year VU students are required to participate in the “Vanderbilt Visions” program, which is a small-group orientation program that meets weekly during their first year on campus. The Visions program includes discussion sessions on topics relevant to sustainability and the environment that all students must complete. Additionally, first-year students are required to complete “Commons Reading”, which often includes sustainability themed books (Earth – Bill McKibben and Half the Sky - Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn).

Vanderbilt University provides myriad opportunities for students to partake in sustainability and environmentally-focused coursework, research and educational opportunities. In Fall 2011, Vanderbilt’s program in American Studies initiated the Sustainability Project (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/americanstudies/sustainability/index.php), which aims to encourage campus-wide dialogue that will promote and further the university’s sustainability efforts. Due to the success of the program, the Sustainability Project continued into the 2012-13 academic year with a focus on implementing the new minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching sponsored the Cumberland Project (http://cumberland.vanderbilt.edu/) in May 2012, a two-day workshop intended to foster an interdisciplinary teaching and learning community around sustainability themes at Vanderbilt. During the 2011-2012 academic year, various departments within VU, including Department of English and Department of History, taught general courses with a sustainability theme. This was such a success that it was continued into 2012-2013.
In 2016, Vanderbilt focused on the Eos Project as it did in 2011 with the Sustainability Project. The Eos Project supports innovative sustainability initiatives at Vanderbilt University to promote understanding of urgent environmental issues and social action-pathways to respond to the challenges of climate change. The goal is to energize attention to environment/society concerns in diverse disciplines and campus constituencies. The project organizes programming and offers small grants and fellowships to support faculty and students to develop the vision, knowledge, leadership skills, and networks needed to address pressing problems at the intersections of ecology and social justice, where the well-being of human communities is inseparable from the well-being of more-than-human life-worlds.
http://eosprojectvu.org/ http://as.vanderbilt.edu/academics/experientiallearning/vanderbiltvisions/

Does the institution have a program through which students can learn sustainable life skills?:

A brief description of the programs through which students can learn sustainable life skills:

The FutureVU Sustainability Leaders Program, launched in 2020, uses community engagement and peer mentoring to foster a sustainable campus culture, improve sustainability literacy, improve interaction with sustainability initiatives such as Net Zero Energy and Zero Waste, and encourage and enable positive behavior change within campus, student, departmental, administrative, professional, residential, and other VU communities. Sustainability Leaders support Vanderbilt’s carbon neutrality by 2050 goal through culture change, education, peer mentoring, and facilitation of actionable goals.

Volunteer membership in the Sustainability Leaders program includes:
• Monthly meeting throughout the academic year
• Leaders will also facilitate sustainable office/department/residence certifications in their areas, provide education and guidance at departmental and organizational meetings and events, plan outreach events and competitions, and lead by personal example

Does the institution offer sustainability-focused student employment opportunities?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused student employment opportunities offered by the institution:

The Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) at Vanderbilt regularly employs seven undergraduate students as student-workers for the year. These students work primarily with sustainability outreach and data entry for Vanderbilt’s annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. In addition, 8-9 students are employed each semester to serve as recycling technicians, who regularly service residential recycling areas on campus. SEMO also hires an annual summer intern who focuses primarily on the recycling program at Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt also provides at least two internships to assist with the Urban Green Lab Mobile Lab. Vanderbilt partnered with the Urban Green Lab in 2015 on an EPA grant to develop a Mobile sustainability lab classroom designed to reach diverse and underserved populations to enhance middle and high schools’ science and technology curricula and inspire sustainable behaviors. This cutting-edge programming for Nashville public schools will create ongoing educational, mentoring, and relationship-building opportunities. The lab explores 5 important topics in sustainability: energy, water, green building, food & agriculture, and sustainable transportation. It challenges students to make everyday choices that save money, resources, and improve their quality of life. Developed in collaboration with teachers, school staff, and students, the mobile lab prevents the need to spend time, energy, and money on permission slips and school buses by bringing hands on activities directly to you. The lab connects classroom learning with real world applications, employing problem-based learning and interactive activities. As a service to our Nashville community, the mobile lab will be offered free of charge to Metro Nashville Public Middle and High Schools and will be available for a reasonable rate to private and home schools.

Does the institution have a graduation pledge through which students pledge to consider social and environmental responsibility in future job and other decisions?:

A brief description of the graduation pledge(s):

A brief description of other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives that do not fall into one of the above categories:

Sustainability Leaders Program uses community engagement and peer mentoring to foster a sustainable campus culture, improve sustainability literacy, improve interaction with sustainability initiatives such as Net Zero Energy and Zero Waste, and encourage and enable positive behavior change within campus, student, departmental, administrative, professional, residential, and other VU communities. Sustainability Leaders support Vanderbilt’s carbon neutrality by 2050 goal through culture change, education, peer mentoring, and facilitation of actionable goals. The program is open to Vanderbilt faulty, students, and staff.
The Vanderbilt Walk Bike Coalition includes parties from across the campus to address issues facing bikers and pedestrians at Vanderbilt. They are focused on sustainability, health, and fun and tackle issues of safety and accessibility. The group acts to leverage resources and make connections for partnerships within Vanderbilt and in the Nashville Community.

Additional documentation to support the submission:

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