Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 55.50
Liaison Cora Kenfield
Submission Date July 22, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Vassar College
OP-10: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.06 / 2.00 Kevin Mercer
Grounds Manager
Buildings & Grounds
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds::
Total campus area 400 Acres
Footprint of the institution's buildings 45 Acres
+ Date Revised: July 31, 2014
Area of undeveloped land, excluding any protected areas 0 Acres

Area of managed grounds that is::
Managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan 75 Acres
Managed in accordance with a sustainable landscape management program that includes an IPM plan and otherwise meets the criteria outlined 200 Acres
Managed organically, third party certified and/or protected 0 Acres

A copy of the IPM plan:

The IPM plan :

In buildings, habitat and food are eliminated, traps are used to monitor pest populations, before spraying, minimum amounts of pesticide are used. In lawns and athletics fields, turf health is promoted with organic fertilizer, compost topdressing, and overseeding. Weed load is monitored. Spraying is only used when necessary

A brief summary of the institution’s approach to sustainable landscape management:

Starting in 2013, the Grounds team has taken a holistic and collaborative approach to managing the Vassar landscape. The selection of lower environmental impact products for highly visible areas and an organic approach for outlying lawns is the crux of this effort, but has been actively augmented by our recent certification through Tree Campus USA, creating a Campus Landscape Committee made up with multiple campus stakeholders to further promote sustainable practices in landscape management.

A brief description of how the institution protects and uses existing vegetation, uses native and ecologically appropriate plants, and controls and manages invasive species:

Major landscape plantings are recommended by the landscape architecture consultant Michael Van Valkenberg Associates (MVVA), which also developed our current landscape master plan. As part of the master plan, MVVA stressed the use of native plants in our landscape, and has made specific recommendations that follow these guidelines.

Plans have been developed and adopted for spring 2014 implementation of invasive vine removal and the establishment of naturalized areas on campus.

A brief description of the institution’s landscape materials management and waste minimization policies and practices:

Vassar mulches all waste from groundskeeping at a site on the Vassar Farm & Ecological Preserve (on campus), after which it is utilized in the community gardens and running trails as topdressing.

A brief description of the institution’s organic soils management practices:

The Grounds team regularly does soil testing to evaluate health, moisture and nutrient levels of the central lawns. Each year lawns are dressed with Earthworks organic fertilizer to help establish and continue care for the topsoil.

A brief description of the institution’s use of environmentally preferable materials in landscaping and grounds management:

Starting in 2013, the grounds team has switched to the use of more environmentally friendly products for central lawns. Corn Gluten a natural byproduct of the corn milling process and Fiesta(C) an Iron-based product are now used and were selected for their low impact on the environment and the community.
For outlying lawns no products are used, opting instead for an organic approach that only entails regular mowing.

A brief description of how the institution restores and/or maintains the integrity of the natural hydrology of the campus:

Soil probes and close monitoring of the weather allow the Grounds team to keep track evapotranspiration and therefore allows irrigation to be adapted as the situation calls for it. On the athletic fields, watering is done early in the morning so as to limit water loss to evaporation.
Rain gardens across campus help limit stormwater and nutrient runoff.

A multiyear research study monitors the 2 streams that run through campus for water quality and have been aided through the ongoing restoration of an native wetland garden that had first been established in the 1920s.

A brief description of how the institution reduces the environmental impacts of snow and ice removal (if applicable):

Starting in the winter of 2013/2014, Vassar has switched to the use of salt brine solution of Magnesium Chloride that has enabled us to reduce our total salt usage by 50%.
The brine solution is applied to roads and sidewalks ~24 hours prior to a winter precipitation event and works by preventing snow and ice from bonding with the pavement, making plowing more effective. In addition to the reduction in the total tonnage of salt, there are numerous benefits including reduced runoff, fewer corrosive impacts on vehicles, infrastructure and pets,

For stairs and entranceways Vassar uses Magic Minus Zero, a product of Sears Ecological Applications in Rome, NY (local business). The Magic Minus Zero product has earned the EPA Design for the Environment award because it is less corrosive, will not harm curbside grasses and plants, leaves no residue, is safe for people to handle, and releases far less chloride than either plain salt or calcium chloride.

A brief description of any certified and/or protected areas:

The Vassar Farm & Ecological Preserve is a 532 acre protected area (off main campus) where environmental research is conducted, sustainable stewardship is practiced, and trails offer recreational opportunities for the community.

In the Fall of 2013, 1100 trees were planted on 5 acres as part of the DEC's Trees for Tribs (Tributaries) program.

Is the institution recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA program (if applicable)?:

The website URL where information about the institution’s sustainable landscape management programs and practices is available:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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.