Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 60.83
Liaison Parker Long
Submission Date March 2, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Virginia Commonwealth University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Joseph Costa
Sustainability Projects and Program Coordinator
Sustainability
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Air & Climate?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Air & Climate:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Buildings:

Engineering students regularly assist in the implementation sustainability projects with the intention of incorporating them into building design. This includes developing plans for rainwater capture and for biomass heating. Most recently, they assisted in the design of a greenwall on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Energy:

Students engage in the residence halls engage in energy saving competitions with the help of building dashboards and learn about how their actions can directly effect a buildings electrical load.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Food & Dining:

https://sustainability.vcu.edu/gardens/partnerships/

The RamPantry exists to address food insecurity by providing in-need VCU students, faculty and staff with healthy, culturally appropriate food. The Office of Sustainability is excited about its growing relationship with the RamPantry and what our collaboration means for our shared missions as they relate to food.

Currently, half of the produce grown at the MPC Learning Garden is donated to the RamPantry, with the Center for Healthy Hearts receiving the other half. We are working with both organizations to also provide nutrition and food preparation education.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Grounds:

The Grace E. Harris Hall Rain Garden is the first of it's kind at VCU. Promoted by the student organization, Green Unity for VCU, the planting of the garden was an opportunity for students to come together and help to “green” the VCU campus. The rain garden is planted in flowering species native to Virginia and is a small oasis of natural beauty in the middle of campus for students to gather and enjoy.

The purpose of the rain garden is to reduce the pollution flowing into the James River by reducing stormwater runoff. As rainwater flows across roads, lawns and other impervious surfaces, the runoff collects chemicals, fertilizers and other pollutants. The rain garden captures the runoff from impervious or paved surfaces that would normally drain into the James River and Chesapeake Bay. The plants absorb the runoff, where toxins and sediments are filtered and retained in the soil, therefore reducing the amount of runoff making its way downstream. Rain gardens help to manage the amount and more importantly, the quality of stormwater runoff.

The Bayscape Landscaping (bayscaping) at the Trani Center for Life Sciences is conservation landscaping that benefits wildlife, the James River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. This type of landscaping uses native plants to reduce the quantity of stormwater runoff, filter pollutants and reduce landscape maintenance costs at VCU.

Bayscaping reduces the amount of time needed to care for a landscape since all of the plants are locally adapted. It also reduces the amount of water used for irrigation and the use of chemical fertilizers. By installing bayscapes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we are helping to improve the water quality of local streams, the James River, the Chesapeake Bay and the habitat that the area provides for its wildlife.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Purchasing:

VCU Student Group " United Students against Sweatshops" This student group uses campus as a living laboratory by exploring the feasibility of sourcing only fairly produced textile products, as well as educating the larger student body on the morality involved with sustainability purchasing. To date, this group has changed bookstore procurement policy with more of the bookstore's textile purchases coming from sources that guarantee fair labor.
https://www.facebook.com/usasvculocal804/
http://www.commonwealthtimes.org/2016/04/26/united-students-against-sweatshops-drop-off-letter-of-intent-to-president-rao/
http://www.commonwealthtimes.org/2011/12/08/freshman-petitions-for-fair-labor-practices-with-vcu-apparel/


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Transportation:

RamBikes at VCU conducts group rides with students and teaches them how to safely ride bicycles in an urban environment, as well as giving workshops on bike maintenance.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Waste:

Students are regularly surveyed regarding what they believe is the best course of action for increasing the diversion rate on campus. Most recently the Student Sustainability Advisory Council has made recommendations regarding enhanced signage in the residence halls and at highly trafficked areas to better educate students on how single stream recycling works.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Water:

With funding from the EPA, the VCU Office of Sustainability are working with students in the VCU Center for Environmental Studies and the Urban and Regional Planning program to evaluate the campus area and surrounding neighborhoods for stormwater management practices. This research project uses a suitability model to identify suitable locations for various stromwater BMPs. Students contributing to the project have also identified sources of funding to implement projects at identified locations on campus and in the neighborhoods around the VCU campus.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Coordination & Planning:

The Student Sustainability Advisory Council is a student group that acts as a conduit between the student body, and the Office of Sustainability and greater sustainability community at VCU. Their findings and recommendations are used in the creation of the Sustainability Plan and in shaping the tasks of the staff and faculty run Sustainability Council. Currently the Student Advisory Council is involved with gauging student interest in a Green Fee, and coming up with student suggestions for what they'd like to see the green fee spent on.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Investment & Finance:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Public Engagement:

VCU Division of Community Engagement provides resources to find volunteer opportunities both within and outside of VCU. Visit their Service Opportunities page to find ways to get involved. Most students have elements of service learning as part of their coursework, this provides a consistent partnership with the community for public engagement.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

"The Well" and the School of Social Work, as well as other VCU departments provide students with research opportunities ranging on issues of mental health, vulnerable populations, and substance. Those involved in research are provided with university wide infrastructure to collect data, as well as provide data and resources for the campus population.
https://thewell.vcu.edu/
https://www.socialwork.vcu.edu/research/


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to other areas (e.g. arts & culture or technology)?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to other areas:
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The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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