Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.40
Liaison Parker Long
Submission Date Aug. 27, 2021

STARS v2.2

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

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Elias Frantz
Sustainability Assistant
VCU 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:

The VCU Office of Sustainability hosts a yearly Campus Sustainability Day at the center of VCU's Monroe Park Campus. Organizations that are committed to sustainability, conservation, and environmental education in and around Richmond are invited to table and gather volunteers and participants for their programs. The event allows students to become more connected to sustainability efforts throughout the city of Richmond. The event also includes informational workshops about actions students can take to live more sustainable lifestyles.


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:

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


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:

VCU's Urban Ecology course uses campus and the city of Richmond as a living laboratory to introduce students to principals of urban ecology and skills in urban forest assessment and management through lectures, discussion, hands-on experiential learning. Students work with community partners to collect data on existing urban forest cover in VCU and Richmond, VA, and estimate the economic value provided by trees on public land. Analyses of the spatial distribution of urban tree cover across the Richmond Metropolitan Area will advance knowledge of key ecosystem services provided, while recommendations resulting from the analyses have the potential to enhance the quality of life locally and regionally.


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:

VCU Student Group "Neo Environmental Organization" or NEO is committed to advocating for a more environmentally friendly city through the implementation of sustainable technology. An issue that NEO has identified is the lack of awareness about which buildings have sustainable features and seeks to highlight that information for the community. In response to this issue, they have created stickers that will go on specific buildings and will link to information about the sustainable features of each building.

https://vcu.campusgroups.com/student_community?club_id=47607


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:

Students in the residence halls engage in energy saving competitions with the help of building energy monitoring dashboards. This provides the opportunity to learn in real time how their actions can directly effect building electrical load.


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:

The VCU RamPantry exists to address food insecurity by providing in-need VCU students, faculty and staff with healthy, culturally appropriate food. Currently, half of the produce grown at the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden is donated to VCU RamPantry, with the Center for Healthy Hearts receiving the other half. The garden and VCU RamPantry are managed by staff members but are staffed and maintained by many student volunteers. This provides many students with the ability to learn hands-on about urban gardening and food pantry/non-profit day to day operations.

https://sustainability.vcu.edu/programs/gardening/partners/


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:

The VCU Office of Sustainability's gardening program supports access to learning about gardening, growing fresh produce, and furthering food education.
The VCU gardening program consists of:
The MCV Community Garden that strives to provide faculty, staff, and students with space to grow their own food and flowers.
The Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden works with the VCU and Richmond communities to increase access to healthy food as well as provide education around how healthy food can be grown and prepared.
Integrated sustainable urban design throughout the VCU campuses and consist of:
Landscaping that manages stormwater runoff;
Establishing green roofs and pollinator gardens;
Planting native plants;
Educating faculty, staff, students, and community members about the benefits of gardening; and
Establishing a microgreens lab in coordination with faculty from the Environmental Sciences department. The lab focused on sustainable indoor food production, is available to all students (no prerequisites) as a one-credit course, and is entirely student-run, with oversight from the Office of Sustainability and faculty lead.

https://sustainability.vcu.edu/programs/gardening/gardens.html


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Purchasing:
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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:

RamBikes at VCU conducts group rides with students and teaches them how to safely ride bicycles in an urban environment. They provide free workshops on bike upkeep and maintenance for students to learn about their bikes and are staffed by student workers that want to learn in-depth bike mechanical skills.

https://bikes.vcu.edu/


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:

VCU Student Group "Food Recovery Network" uses the campus as a living laboratory to create a food recovery program to fight food waste and hunger by recovering perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from campus dining halls. Their goal is to change the norm from food waste to food recovery here in Richmond.
https://vcu.campusgroups.com/frn/home/
https://www.foodrecoverynetwork.org/virginia


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:

VCU's Rice Rivers Center and engages students and the general public on the importance of oysters as "living filters" and providing critical habitat helping to sustain and restore healthy waters within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. VCU also has courses in wetlands ecology and applied restoration ecology. In both of these courses, students get "hands-on" experiential learning opportunities in the importance of wetland habitats to sustaining water quality, biodiversity, and the myriad of critically important ecosystem services these imperiled ecosystems provide. Students learn how to quantify these ecosystems in a variety of riverine and wetland settings including our 70 acres tidal freshwater forested wetland restoration and 1.5-mile Kimages Creek stream restoration.


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:

VCU is currently drafting a new sustainability plan that will be adopted by the entire university. Within some of the working groups drafting the plan, individual interested students, as well as relevant student groups are invited to participate to learn about the process and have the student voice represented.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

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

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance:
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Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability 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/


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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