Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.94
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Dec. 19, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Virginia Tech
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Dennis Cochrane
Sustainability Program Manager
Facilities Services, Office of Energy and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have a published strategic plan or equivalent guiding document that includes sustainability at a high level? :
Yes

A brief description of how the institution’s strategic plan or equivalent guiding document addresses sustainability:

The 2012-2018 University Strategic Plan, "A Plan for a New Horizon," includes many references to the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability. Excerpts from the Strategic Plan that specifically reference the university’s sustainability goals and commitments are as follows:

Environmental Sustainability: “With this plan, Virginia Tech is positioning itself to further develop a distinctive profile as a progressive and internationally recognized research university. We are poised to grow our undergraduate enrollment when appropriate and will pursue significant and strategic growth in graduate enrollment. Focusing on growth in graduate enrollment in science, technology, engineering, computational sciences, health sciences, and business- and policy-oriented subjects will provide additional teaching resources, sustain and expand our research portfolio, and provide a broad range of student research experiences. This growth will also facilitate the pursuit of our mission to address significant science, technology, economic, and social issues.”

“In the spirit of our mission, we will contribute to business-, industry-, and policy-relevant research with a focus on multiple dimensions of security, resilience, health, and sustainability. These themes will also underpin much of our outreach activities and service learning. Much of our research will continue to focus on various dimensions of national and local security; the resiliency of systems, organizations, communities, and ecosystems; the evolving health and medical enterprise; and local, regional, and global sustainability.”

“Virginia Tech will leverage existing and emerging strengths in the following areas: energy, materials, and technology; water science, policy, and management; transportation and communication infrastructures; natural resources, ecosystems, and environmental quality; informatics and policy; food and food systems; and sustainable international development. An increased capacity for data-intensive, high-performance computing—including geographic-information systems, visualization, and policy informatics—is crucial to facilitating advanced research in these areas.”

Economic Sustainability: “We must work toward campus sustainability by developing a campus wide willingness and commitment to critically evaluate our practices and embrace new technologies and innovative solutions. This commitment must include extensive engagement and collaboration among students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The university will implement the Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan and ensure ongoing evaluation and critical examination of the university’s policies and practices toward ensuring the most effective and sustainable use of our human, fiscal, and environmental resources.”
Social Sustainability: The universisty motto: “Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is the essence of the Virginia Tech experience, the guiding principle of our community. The motto rests upon a foundation of trust, integrity, respect, and compassion We cannot serve without honoring diversity We cannot be a vibrant community without promoting caring and inclusiveness, respecting individuality, and valuing the unique contributions of each of our members.”


A copy of the strategic plan:
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The website URL where the strategic plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have a published sustainability plan (apart from what is reported above)? :
Yes

A copy of the sustainability plan:
The website URL where the sustainability plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have a published climate action plan (apart from what is reported above)? :
Yes

A copy of the climate action plan:
The website URL where the climate action plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have other published plans that address sustainability or include measurable sustainability objectives (e.g. campus master plan, physical campus plan, diversity plan, human resources plan)? :
Yes

A list of other published plans that address sustainability, including public website URLs (if available):
Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Curriculum?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Curriculum and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Curriculum Credits in the STARS Academics Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives: we strive to increase the percentage of sustainability courses offered with the measurable goal to attain greater than 20% of offered courses related to sustainability by 2025. We encourage departments to encourage their students to take a sustainability course(s), whether through required courses or electives.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Research?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Research and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Research Credits in the STARS Academics Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Virginia Tech is a top research university with global sustainability as a major focus. We anticipate achieving at least 75% departmental involvement in sustainability research by 2025.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Campus Engagement and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Campus Engagement Credits in the STARS Engagement Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Our goal is to expand the current green office certification program with the goal of getting all departments certified by 2025. The Office of Sustainability leads the effort to expand sustainability educational opportunities for faculty and staff campus-wide to include: presentations, webinars, face-to-face meetings, and interaction with the Faculty-Staff Senate.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Public Engagement?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Public Engagement and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Public Engagement Credits in the STARS Engagement Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. We encourage the expansion of sustainability course offerings and offered certificates in continuing education with the goal of achieving 10% by 2030. Our goal is to engage our entire student body in community service through existing service frameworks by placing more emphasis on these opportunities.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Air & Climate Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. See the Notes section.

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #3 states: “Virginia Tech will establish a target for reduction of campus GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 emission level of 188,000 tons by 2050. Interim targets from 2006 emissions of 316,000 tons will be: for 2012, 295,000 tons (on path to 2025 target); for 2025, 255,000 tons (2000 emission level); and for 2050, 38,000 tons (80% below 1990 emission level).


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Buildings?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Buildings and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Buildings Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. See the Notes section.

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #6 states: “Virginia Tech will improve the sustainability of its built environment by: a. Achieving LEED Silver certification or better for all eligible and applicable new buildings and major renovations. b. Evaluating the feasibility of LEED for Existing Buildings certification for its existing buildings.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Energy?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Energy and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Energy Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. See the Notes section.

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #4 states: “Virginia Tech will work toward these emission reduction targets through improved energy efficiency, reduction of energy waste, replacement of high-carbon fuels, and other measures identified in the VTCAC&SP.”

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #7 states: “Virginia Tech will improve electricity and heating efficiency of campus facilities and their operations by: a. Exceeding the most current version of ASHRAE 90.1 energy performance by 10% for all new buildings and major renovations. Capital budgets should account for future energy price, life cycle cost of building operation, and environmental benefits of achieving this level of performance. b. Improving the heating and cooling infrastructure and operation, lighting efficiency, equipment efficiency, and metering and controls of its existing buildings.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Food & Dining?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Food & Dining and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Food & Dining Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Virginia Tech Dining Services is committed to local and sustainable food sourcing. We are working as an institution to incorporate the new STARS standards into our sustainable and local purchasing calculations. We strive to increase the total percentage of food and beverage expenditures that are third party verified or both locally and community based.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Grounds?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Grounds and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Grounds Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Our goal is to achieve 50% of campus grounds managed in accordance with an IPM program by 2025.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Purchasing?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Purchasing and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Purchasing Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. The University is in the process of developing a comprehensive sustainability procurement policy which will establish goals and measurable objectives for sustainability-related commodities campus-wide. In addition, we are revising Campus Policy 5505: Energy, Water, Waste Reduction with the goal of completing the revision not later than 2019.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Transportation?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Transportation and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Transportation Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. The VTCAC point number 11 states that: "Virginia Tech will improve transportation energy efficiency on campus through parking, fleet, and alternative transportation policies and practices. The university will continue to implement programs that encourage the use of alternative transportation methods and will continue to implement programs and services that promote eco-responsible fleet management."

Every two years the Director of Parking and Transportation prepares a comprehensive survey for students and employees complete in order to gain an appreciation of how people commute to, from, and around the Blacksburg campus. The data obtained is used is beneficial in helping the department determine how to better meet the needs of the university community. The "Virginia Tech 2018 Commuter Survey" is scheduled to be launched mid-March with data to be gathering during the spring semester.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Waste Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives.

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #8 states: ”Virginia Tech will minimize waste and achieve a 50% recycle rate by 2020.”


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Water?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Water and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Water Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Because our campus is continually growing and expanding, we address water reduction on a normalized consumption basis of gallons/sqft. Our university goal is to reduce the normalized water consumption by 40% over the next ten years. In addition, we are revising Campus Policy 5505: Energy, Water, Waste Reduction with the goal of completing the revision not later than 2019.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Diversity & Affordability and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Diversity & Affordability Credits in the STARS Planning and Administration Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Virginia Tech President, Timothy Sands, has made diversity and affordability a major university priority. The university is committed to have all student, staff, and faculty participate in cultural competence training. IN-27: Innovation D Titled Inclusive VT, is our institutional and individual commitment to the university motto, Ut Prosim: "That I May Serve", in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. Inclusive VT has four major goals: institutionalizing structures to promote sustainable transformation; increasing faculty, staff and student diversity, ensuring a welcoming, affirming, safe, and assessable campus climate; and Advancing the academic mission through inclusion and diversity.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Investment & Finance?:
No

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Investment & Finance and the published plans in which each objective is included:
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Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Wellbeing & Work and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Well-being and Work Credits in the STARS Planning and Administration Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Virginia Tech has an outstanding wellness program that is available to all faculty, staff, and students. We will continue to improve upon this program in the future. Additionally, the university goal is to have no recordable workplace injuries and occupational disease cases.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas (e.g. arts and culture or technology)?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” states the university will use the AASHE ‘s “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the STARS Credits provide our measurable sustainability objectives. See the Notes section.


Does the institution have a formal statement in support of sustainability endorsed by its governing body (e.g. a mission statement that specifically includes sustainability and is endorsed by the Board of Trustees)? :
Yes

The formal statement in support of sustainability:

Sustainability Mission:
The pursuit of sustainability is achieved through Virginia Tech's administration; physical
environment and operations; student life and experience; campus culture and behavior; and
academic learning, discovery, and engagement.

The revised VTCAC was endorsed by the University Council on May 6, 2013, and it includes a sustainability mission statement, vision and definition.


The institution’s definition of sustainability (e.g. as included in a published statement or plan):

Sustainability Definition:
Sustainability is the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, economic prosperity, and
social justice and equity, through action, education, and engagement to address current needs
without compromising the capacity and needs of future generations.


Is the institution an endorser or signatory of the following? :
Yes or No
The Earth Charter No
The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) No
ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter No
Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment (formerly known as the ACUPCC), Resilience Commitment, and/or integrated Climate Commitment No
The Talloires Declaration (TD) No
UN Global Compact No
Other multi-dimensional sustainability commitments (please specify below) No

A brief description of the institution’s formal sustainability commitments, including the specific initiatives selected above:
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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:

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan (VTCAC&SP): An Historical Perspective:

During Earth Week 2008 former Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger charged the newly established Energy and Sustainability Committee to develop a Virginia Tech climate commitment with clear, measureable, and realistic goals, and an accompanying sustainability plan to achieve those goals. The documentation was developed during calendar year 2008 and reviewed using the university governance system in the 2009 spring semester. On Earth Day, April 22, 2009, the University Council recommended approval of the “Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment” and accepted the accompanying “Sustainability Plan” (VTCAC&SP). On June 1, 2009 the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors unanimously approved the “Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment” which became Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 262.

The VTCAC contained 14 distinct points and featured numerous measureable sustainability objectives. It established interim and long-range reduction targets for campus greenhouse gases (GHGs), improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in energy demand, it required the pursuit of LEED Silver Certification or better for all new construction projects and major renovations, it established a goal to achieve a 50% recycle rate by 2025, and it required the newly created Office of Sustainability to prepare an annual “report card” showcasing sustainability progress. More importantly, the VTCAC required the university to conduct periodic reviews of the commitment and to make adjustments as appropriate.

To track our sustainability progress, in Academic Year 2009-2010 the Office of Sustainability created a comprehensive spreadsheet of nearly 100 measureable goals and objectives which were identified in the VTCAC&SP. Goals and objectives were measured using three time horizons to include: immediate (1-3 years), mid-term (4-15 years), and long-term (16 to 25 years). This spreadsheet was extremely effective and used for preparing our Sustainability Annual Report.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education launched the STARS Program during Academic Year 2010-2011. Recognizing the value of this protocol, Virginia Tech became a charter member of STARS. Our initial submission occurred in August 2011 and followed by our second submission in March 2013. At the same time we continued to track our sustainability progress using our own and separate comprehensive spreadsheet.

The Energy and Sustainability Committee conducted a comprehensive review of the VTCAC&SP during Academic Year 2013-2014. It included a very detailed comparison of the measureable sustainability goals and objectives in our comprehensive spreadsheet and the measureable sustainability goals and objectives in the STARS protocol. The committee discovered there was extensive duplication.

The AASHE STARS protocol is recognized as the national standard for monitoring university progress toward achieving sustainability goals and objectives. An outstanding feature of STARS is that the data and information submitted can be used by other organizations that monitor our sustainability posture, such as the Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges.” Using STARS as the primary management tool for Virginia Tech’s sustainability planning and management provides efficiency in monitoring sustainability progress, it affords a comparison with other peer institutions, and it provides a more systematic means of tracking compliance and progress toward VT’s Climate Action Commitment. And it eliminates the need for our using a separate comprehensive spreadsheet. As a result, the Energy and Sustainability Committee strongly recommended Virginia Tech adopt STARS as the foundation for our future sustainability planning. Our senior leadership concurred. The “Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP” was approved in April 2014 with STARS becoming our primary sustainability management tool.

Virginia Tech had its third STARS submission using version 1.2 on October 15, 2014 and we received a Gold Rating.

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.