Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.39
Liaison Brian Liechti
Submission Date March 4, 2020

STARS v2.2

Warren Wilson College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Margo Flood
Sustainability Project Coordinator
Finance and Administration
"---" 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:

One of the defining characteristics of a Warren Wilson education is the extent to which the campus serves as a living laboratory - not only for research but also for the campus' continued work to form a high-functioning community that reflects the values of the institution, its unique pedagogy and its impassioned students.

The unique curriculum - liberal arts academics with an emphasis on applied learning, Community Engagement expectations both on campus (as in shared governance) and in the region, and Work Crew participation by all students - defines the scope of student participation in the life of the community.

The living laboratory functions at so many levels - from scientific research into climate impacts on campus lands to the Cowpie student Work Crew who prepares vegan meals for the community each day and the Free Store established for all the campus to participate in re-use - the College functions as a living laboratory for sustainable community-building.

Work Program Examples
All Warren Wilson students are required to work on a crew in fulfillment of graduation requirements. There are 80 student Work Crews and each of them helps to manage the life and work of the College. Many of these crews advance campus engagement in sustainable practices. Examples follow:

The Center for Student Well-Being’s Wellness Crew organizes campus activities focused on sustainable lifestyle practices like weekly yoga and meditation classes. The Spiritual Life Crew develops programs to foster a campus climate that welcomes diverse religious and spiritual worldviews. These include student-led religious practice groups in several faith traditions, monthly interfaith dinners, and events examining the intersection of faith and gender identities. The Student Activities Crew coordinates campus programs that promote sustainable lifestyle activities including such events as rock climbing at the indoor campus climbing facility, dances, movie nights, and knitting classes. The Recycling and Waste Management Crew collects and sorts trash and food waste campus-wide, posts educational notices in the dorms about the importance of recycling, and organizes such activities as garbology studies to help the campus community engage and learn. The Information and Technology Services Crew provides IT support campus-wide, sets printers to two-sided only, and helps to educate the community about energy savings practices for technology use.


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:

Work Crews Foster Public Engagement
Community Engagement is a requirement for graduation from Warren Wilson. In a scaffolded, four-year program, all students learn how to become effective agents for change through community engagement/service immersion organized by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).

The Bonner Leaders Work Crew is essential to the work of the CCE. As a campus partner in the national Bonner Leaders Program, Warren Wilson's Bonner Leaders Work Crew is deeply committed to civic engagement, working for social and environmental justice, and building relationships with the community around them. The Crew connects Warren Wilson students with community partners who are focused on the most pressing sustainability issues of the region and they plan break trips for focused, week-long work on these issues. Recent break trips included ‘Coming Face-to-Face with the Immigrant Experience,’ ‘Shovels Down, Chalk Up: Climbing and Trail Work in Muir Valley, Kentucky,’ and ‘Food, Faith & Farming at Anathoth Community Garden and Farm.’ Staff often volunteer to co-lead these trips.

In the past two years, students on the Environment and Social Justice Crew have organized numerous on-campus education campaigns and off-campus trips for students to participate in public hearings related to regional sustainability issues and to learn to engage in them effectively. The Crew has supported participation in the US Forest Service’s hearings on proposed logging work, Duke Energy's Coal Ash presentations and EPA superfund site public hearings. In addition, the Crew focuses on voting as an essential expression of citizenship. An example of their recent communication on this topic follows: "The Environmental & Social Justice Crew (ESJC) is working hard to gather all of the information necessary to make the voting process as accessible as possible. Between the tedious regulations, confusing deadlines, and often unjust voting practices, we know and understand that voting can be difficult. Throughout the duration of the semester we will be filling your inbox with lots of information and resources to hopefully alleviate some stress. We recently received this update from the NC State Board of Elections: “Voters will not be required to show photo ID for the 2020 primary election. In a December 31 order, a federal district court blocked North Carolina’s voter photo ID requirement from taking effect. The injunction will remain in place until further order of the court. For more information visit the State Board of Elections website: www.ncsbe.gov.” In other words, you will not be required to present any form of photo ID at the polls in the North Carolina primary election. Can't remember if you're registered to vote in NC? Click this link to find out! Still need to register to vote? Stop by the voting station on campus in the Center for Community Engagement and be on the lookout for the voter registration table during lunch and dinners at Gladfelter Dining (campus cafeteria), plus more emails including early voting dates, shuttles to the polls, and general voting information."

Capstone Academic Projects
All students at Warren Wilson complete capstone research projects and present them to the community. Many students select capstone projects that examine issues of public engagement such as prison issues, living wage, voting access, poverty and water quality, and more. See document attached to this page, “Capstone Projects 2018-2019,” for examples.


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:

There are numerous, ongoing, living laboratory projects on campus related to air and climate, that unfold either through research conducted by our student Work Crews, course-based research projects and independent student research for capstone projects. Examples follow:

Work Crews
Warren Wilson’s Farm Crew manages the sustainable farm practices for which the College is known as well as conducting research into innovations in grazing techniques and how they effect carbon sequestration. The College has recently secured a grant to advance this research: "Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services while maintaining economic sustainability. Capturing and storing soil carbon is one of the priorities of regenerative agriculture and a necessary tool in addressing climate change. The College is committed to developing, implementing and sharing land management practices that contribute to climate mitigation and carbon sequestration. This research will allow us to create a baseline inventory of current carbon contained in our agricultural fields that can be used to assess the effects of future management innovations with an eye towards carbon capture. The monitoring system will provide applied learning opportunities for our agriculture students and results will be shared with private and public stakeholders throughout the region."

Each land management crew for Farm, Garden, Forest and Landscaping is involved in refining sustainable practices to adapt to the changing climate. The College’s newly formed Land Innovation Program is rich with examples of campus research to develop not only sustainable land management practices, but to develop new methods that provide economic viability for regional farming operations to sustain their work in this changing climate. See https://www.warren-wilson.edu/about/land-innovation/ for many examples.

Capstone Student Research
Students use the campus' 1,050 acres of land as the laboratory for their research on the impacts of climate change on various plants and animals, the results of which are shared through Natural Science Undergraduate Research Capstone presentations both on- and off-campus. As an example, note that several of the student research topics listed at these two websites for last year’s science capstones were conducted on campus and related to air and climate: http://wwcnscapstone.org/2018/12/19/natural-science-undergraduate-research-sequence-fall-2018/ and http://wwcnscapstone.org/2019/05/16/4624/


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:

Student Work Crews are involved in every aspect of maintaining buildings on campus, including our five LEED-certified buildings. Each of these LEED buildings teaches students best sustainable practices in the built environment through their design and function. In addition, students learn best maintenance practices through work on their crews. Some specific examples follow:

The Construction Services and Rentals Crew learns the importance of VOC-free painting and other sustainable practices and demonstrates them for campus residents; the Custodial Services Crew uses green cleaning supplies and learns why; the Electrical Services Crew leads the completion of campus lighting to LED.


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:

Warren Wilson student work crews are active and informed participants in the in the deliberation and then the application of best practices. From the question of whether waterless urinals really represent holistic conservation to understanding the real net carbon footprint of electric vs other forms of hand drying, student work crews engage with questions such as these. As an example, they campaigned that waste is an unnecessary energy expense and asked the campus to adopt a Zero Waste Initiative which has become one of the leading goals for campus action on energy. This initiative, managed by the Recycling Crew and supported by the Local Foods Crew, has campus-wide applications. It is about recycling, reusing, and reducing consumption. News of this initiative is circulated via postering, numerous waste reduction activities, and a range of recycling bins located throughout the campus.

In addition,the Recycling Crew manages 'move out' programs to reduce waste and reuse or allocate to regional nonprofits unwanted clothing and furniture. The Local Foods Crew has staged many events in the cafeteria to demonstrate and reduce food waste in the cafeteria. The Recycling Crew has received numerous grants to continue to improve the scope and quality of its composting operation to the degree that it can now accept food waste from the regional farmer’s market.


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:

Warren Wilson is fortunate to have built a remarkable framework for sustainable dining practices. From our student-conceived and student-run Cowpie Café, where two vegan meals are served a day, to the commitment of our dining services vendor, Sodexo, and its on-campus Sustainability Marketing Manager, the College supports sustainable dining choices throughout the campus. The student-run Local Foods Crew works on behalf of sustainable food practices and initiates many of the challenges that keep the College focused on improvement. As an example, they insisted the College advance its Sustainable Dining Policy by pursuing the Real Food Challenge. Rather than adopt the national Real Food Challenge goal, which calls for 20% of food in the cafeteria to come from sustainable sources, they pledged to a 40% goal by 2020. To date, the College has achieved the 20% goal and is working toward 40%.

The Farm Crew manages the College Farm and provides beef and pork to the cafeteria. The Garden Crew grows the majority of produce used by the Cowpie Cafe. Together, the Farm and Garden provide 18% of produce and meat used by Sodexo Dining Services.

The Recycling Crew picks up food waste from the dining hall, the dorms and all of the cafes on campus and composts the waste to produce the mulch used on campus grounds.


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:

Warren Wilson's “grounds” are unique. They are all sustainably managed by student Work Crews. For our 1,050 acre campus, the 100 acres of core campus land is managed by the Landscaping Crew; the 11-acre Garden is managed by the Garden Crew and its Herb Crew; the 300-acre Farm is managed by the Farm Crew; the 600-acre Forest is managed by the Forestry Crew. The Horse Crew manages two draft horses who plow fields, pull out downed trees, and help all “grounds” crews in many ways. Some examples of student engagement in "Grounds" via their work crews demonstrate their commitment to develop innovative methods of sustainable practices:

●Experimenting with a silvopasture system for integrating sheep grazing with walnut syrup production
●Testing viable rice varieties that can be used by regional landowners to adapt to increasing flooding in the region
●Raising grass-fed beef using rotational grazing methods
●Testing stress reducing methods for cattle weaning
●Testing no-till methods for cropping systems
●Saving seeds for heirloom crop varieties
●Variety testing for industrial hemp as new cash crop for regional farmers
●Value-added production of medicinal herb products and specialty meats
●Assessment of soil carbon stores for regenerative agriculture methods
●Herbal production for local brewery

In addition to innovative and entrepreneurial inquiry into sustainable land practices, student work crews also employ routine sustainable practices in land management:

●Forestry Crew manages all aspects of the 600-acre College Forest including non-timber forest products management, timber management, data collection and resource inventory, trail maintenance, stakeholder relations, value-added production, mapping, habitat management, sawmill operation, invasive species management, prescribed burning and records management. On the ground management is directly integrated with classroom courses on Silviculture, Forest Management, Forest Ecology, Geographic Information Systems and Forest Measurements.
●Farm and Garden Crews manage all aspects of the 300-acre College Farm and 11-acre College Garden including hemp production, row crop management, apiary management, draft horse management, value-added production, soils management, Community Supported Agriculture Program, animal husbandry (cattle, hogs, chickens, sheep), cropping systems, feed production, orchard management, herb production, agricultural infrastructure, equipment maintenance, direct sales and record keeping. On the ground management is directly integrated with classroom courses on Sustainable Agriculture, Agroecology, Farm Management and Soils.

Students' Natural Science Capstone Projects also reflect this commitment to advance sustainable land management practices based on a deeper ecological understanding: See http://wwcnscapstone.org/2018/12/19/natural-science-undergraduate-research-sequence-fall-2018/ for examples.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

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

Through the campus shared governance process, Warren Wilson adopted a Purchasing Pattern Language in 2001 that continues to guide us in spirit and principles. These principles give context to our commitment to re-use before purchasing or to purchase re-purposed goods. (As an example, IT purchases quite a bit of refurbished technology.) Students on the Recycling Crew operate the Free Store, where office supplies may often be found, as well as a surplus center for office furnishings. The College's primary approach to sustainable purchasing is to avoid purchasing. Here is an example of a recent email that went out to the entire Warren Wilson community from our Director of Auxiliary Services: "Hi Folks, I'm getting ready to order a dry erase board for the St Clair office. However, in the interest of saving money, I thought I’d ask the community if there is one already on campus that’s been purchased but not being used. I’m looking for a gently used smallish board - 2 x 2 or 2 x 3. I haven’t seen any at the Free Store.I suspect that there are also office supplies tucked in closets and cupboards across campus that may be not needed in one area that could be used by another. If you have an interest in conserving funds and sharing supplies, please let me know and I’ll research a way of communicating that information.” She was quickly offered six different dry erase boards.


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:

Warren Wilson's most recent sustainable transportation initiative is the student-run Transportation Crew. It was established to provide a sustainable transportation choice to the residential campus (89% of our students live on campus and require no transportation to get to and from class). This initiative was developed by Student Life in collaboration with the Auto Shop and is supported by the Student Governance Association, who voted to charge a student fee to provide funds for the service. The Transportation Crew provides access to local resources and serves off-campus needs with a pooled alternative to single occupancy rides to and from. They provide rides to work locations, interviews, internships and doctor appointments. There are regularly scheduled rides, Monday - Thursday evenings, to local stores. From a sustainability perspective, routes are coordinated to include multiple locations, limiting the back and forth to campus mileage. The Transportation Crew uses one of the College Fleet's new vans with an alternative fuel system which reduces the carbon footprint of these trips and can accommodate five to six passengers at a time. These vans are maintained by the student-run Auto Shop Crew.

In 2019, Warren Wilson leased ten brand new vehicles - seven Grand Caravans and three Ford Transit 15-passenger vans. The College has upfitted all ten vehicles with new Alt-fuel hybrid systems that allows them to operate primarily on LPG, but also run exclusively on gasoline as needed. The Grand Caravans also operate on E85 Ethanol fuel. This reduces the carbon footprint of the Campus Fleet considerably by using LPG, which only contains three atoms of Carbon per molecule. This is one example of how the Auto Shop Crew works in partnership with the Transportation Crew to reduce the College's Fleet-related carbon footprint.


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:

Students on the Recycling Crew divert more than 65% of campus waste from the landfill through a variety of recycling and re-using techniques including managing the campus compost operation that composts 100% of campus food waste, the College's farm and garden waste, and vegetable waste from the local farmers market. We have a grant-funded composting demonstration site on campus which increased our composting capacity so that we now accept compostable materials from the regional Western North Carolina Farmers Market.The College has adopted its own Zero Waste Commitment and this permeates our College ethos about waste. See https://www.warren-wilson.edu/student-life/sustainability/ for information about this.


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:

Water conservation is a priority at Warren Wilson, as stated in the College's Sustainable Practices Guide: “As the regional and the global human population swells, the demand on our water systems is increasing. Conserving water, keeping it clean at the source, and using it efficiently are essential.” The Guide includes many water conservation tips for the campus. Examples of campus water conservation initiatives follow:

All of our campus buildings are equipped with low-flow water systems. For our Farm, the state of NC funded a water-conserving animal watering system for pasture-raised pork. The system uses well-water, removing a large portion of livestock from the city water supply. Students manage the continued use of this system, gaining a better understanding of agricultural practices and urban and rural water systems. Thanks to a grant awarded to a student, we have rain cisterns on campus that are used for watering in the demonstration greenhouses in the science building.


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:

The College has shared governance systems that provide the opportunity for students to join with faculty, staff, administrators and trustees in coordination and planning for the institution. The highest governing body is the Board of Trustees. Students have two voting members that serve the Board. Faculty and staff each have one. The Forum – our faculty and staff shared governance body - has Budget Oversight, Strategic Planning, and Policy Review Committees that work with administrative leadership and the Student Government Association to develop policies and procedures for the campus. Student Government Association represents the student body and they are consulted on policy changes that effect students and are invited to present policy suggestions to other governing bodies.

Employees and students have an active and meaningful role in all campus governance issues with the exception of sensitive legal, financial and personnel issues. As an example, students, through the governance system, first requested, and then assisted the College in adopting the Responsible Investment Policy in 2015. Following that, Warren Wilson College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to divest endowment funds from fossil fuels by 2020. By 2020, we are 99% divested.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

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

There are many curriculum initiatives, clubs, organizations and offices throughout campus that support diversity, equity, inclusion and affordability.

The Change Project/Building Diversity, has provided incentives for faculty and staff to work together to create curriculum and workshops that promote a campus climate of inclusion and equity. This project was developed in response to a campus need to intentionally build a more positive campus climate. Samples of workshops that have been held for cross-sectors of the campus include the following: “Discussing and Addressing Privilege,” “Micro-Aggressions,” “What about Gender?,” and “Move this World and Make Community.”

Warren Wilson students participate in a number of organizations on campus through which they seek to build inclusion including Engage Mentors, Wilson’s Herman@s Orgull@s en Las Americas (WHOLA: Proud Brothers & Sisters of the Americas), Student Caucus, Spiritual Life, the Center for Gender and Relationships (RISE), Students Speaking Up, Showing Up: Antiracism Discussion Group and more.

Numerous work crews on campus organize supportive activities: the WIDE Crew provides weekly programs in diversity and inclusion including movie screenings/discussions, community-building dinners, and Open Space talk sessions; the Office of Spiritual Life Crew organizes workshops on interfaith topics; the Office of Global Engagement invites the community to dinners that reflect the music, culture and cuisine of international students; and the Center for Gender and Relationships provides weekly programs that support gender identity issues and the LGBQIT community, especially building awareness and support in the greater campus community. The Queer REsource Center serves as a gathering place for discussion and fellowship.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are stated as top strategic priorities in the College’s most recent strategic plan and a cross-sector Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee has been formed to support sustained progress toward a positive DEI environment.

Warren Wilson is deeply committed to providing access for all students. To be more affordable for low-income students, the College established two programs in 2018 to make is possible for qualified, low income students to attend Warren Wilson tuition-free - Milepost One and NC Free. These programs are proving to be highly successful at providing access to students from all backgrounds.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

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

Warren Wilson students are empowered to engage in these areas. In 2015, students presented administrators and trustees with a proposal to divest the College's endowment of all fossil fuels and divert them to sustainable investments. They were successful. Students (2), faculty (2), staff (2) and at least one member of the College's Alumni Board now serve on the College's Investment Committee. The mission of the Investment Committee is to oversee the integration of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations into investment management strategies for the College's endowment fund and to provide qualitative impact consistent with the values, culture and mission of Warren Wilson. The Committee also oversees the College's endowment divestment of fossil fuel investments toward a goal of 100% divestment by 2020. At this filing, the divestment is more than 99% complete.

In addition to student engagement with the College's endowment, there are many work crews engaged in revenue generating activities that translate into experience with sustainable business ventures: the Herb Crew grows, produces and sells tinctures and salves; the Forest Crew produces and sells black walnut syrups and tinctures; the Landscaping Crew grows native grasses, cultivates the seeds, and sells them; the Fiber Arts Crew makes dyes from campus plants, spins wool from campus sheep, weaves various textiles, and sells them at markets; the Garden Crew operates a CSA and a weekly Farmer's Market. All of these initiatives contribute to an understanding of sustainability and resilience in product production and revenue generation practices.


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:

Warren Wilson is a self-sustaining community, where everybody does their part to keep the college running. Work fuses the campus into one community who learn to serve one another with quality while developing empathy, skills and a deep sense of community engagement. Work Crew Supervisors oversee the work of each crew. They ensure that students learn safe work skills through job-specific trainings, certifications and access to resources. Supervisors are expected to model healthy work-life habits, as well as to support student health and well-being. Many of their crews advance campus wellness such as the Health Clinic Crew, the Wellness Crew, the Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention Crew, and the Outdoor Programs Crew.


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

Data for this report was gathered campus-wide from faculty, staff, work crew supervisors, students and administrators.

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.