Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 53.79
Liaison Leslie North
Submission Date March 5, 2020

STARS v2.2

Western Kentucky University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Leslie North
Director of Sustainability
Geography and Geology
"---" 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:

WKU's International Year Of ... program is intended to provide the WKU campus and surrounding community with a rich, complex sense of place and interconnectedness through a year-long celebration of a single country. Throughout the school year, exploration of and interaction with the country occurs in multiple ways—including, but not limited to:
enhanced course work featuring country-specific content
co-curricular activities
research projects
education abroad program offerings
visiting scholars, performers, and specialists
new institutional partnerships
campus and community events with a country-specific focus
cultural events, exhibits, and lectures
More information can be found at https://www.wku.edu/iyo/

The Green Squirrel of Approval is a voluntary program created by the Office of Sustainability and offered to departments, divisions, or offices. It is intended to engage divisions across campus and create a conversation of sustainability. Participating departments/divisions/offices are awarded a particular number of "acorns" based on their present activities/operations and are provided with information on how to improve operations to be sustainable.

In 2019, a undergraduate student created the "Greeks Go Green" program to create a competition for Greek Life organizations. The intent of the competition is to engage students involved in Greek Life organizations in sustainability programs and practices.


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:

In 2019, a Geoscience graduate student started conducting her Masters thesis research on how best to convert the Office of Sustainability House into a sustainability demonstration home by developing ideas for improving effectiveness in tours of the house and campus.

Beginning in 2016, and continuing today, student ambassadors and workers conduct campus 'Green Tours', to allow for campus sustainability tours for visitors, classes, and other groups.

In 2019, a GIS student updated a free, web-based platform for the Green Tour, allowing for a virtual experience. https://arcgis01.wku.edu/arcgis/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=8d603f854e9b41099a22cc416d29b53a.

In 2018, all trees on campus were identified with plaques. Then, in 2019, a Geography and Environmental Studies student completed a comprehensive tree inventory on campus and is presently working to develop GIS maps which will demonstrate carbon sequestration estimates based on tree type and age. These maps will be publicly available.


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:

Students at WKU are engaged in a variety of academic and co-curricular activities related to air and climate, a few of which are described below:

Geography and Environmental Studies students are developing a GIS maps for measuring and visualizing carbon sequestered by the campus forest.

A Gatton Academy student is assisting with data collection and interpretation for the University greenhouse gas emissions inventory to calculate a updated carbon footprint for the University.

An interdisciplinary group of students are working collaboratively on a service project based on a continued partnership with the University of Akuyeri, Iceland for climate change research. The project is called the Tree of Change, and is built upon two apple trees, one on each campus, under which people come together to talk about climate change solutions.


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:

Architectural and Manufacturing students have formed the student organization, USGBC students. The organization is focused on outreach and education activities that make the campus community aware of the features and benefits of our LEED certified buildings. Signage is placed within some selected buildings to display information related to green building.
https://orgs.wku.edu/usgbc/

The Office of Sustainability is a small home that serves as a living lab where students may conduct sustainability related projects and research. Sustainable improvements have been made to the house, such as insulation, efficient windows, insulated blinds, instant hot water heater, and other such features. Tours of given of the house to educate about building efficiency. A graduate student is presently working on developing plans for making further improvement to the house.

In 2019, students in the interior design major worked with the Office of Sustainability to draft plans for a remodel of the house. The developed spaces which are more conducive for learning and encourage equal participation among all members of a group. They also researched sustainable furniture products, plumbing, and other building materials for use in the office.


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:

Geol 315 Energy, Climate, and Carbon students must complete independent research project covering an area of renewable energy.

In the past, engineering students have conducted blower door and other efficiency standard tests at the Office of Sustainability.

The physics department has a team of students regularly researching low-dimensional/nano-carbons for a range of technical applications such as alternative energy sources (super-capacitors, batteries, photovoltaics, etc.)


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:

In 2013, Social Work graduate students conducted research on food access and affordability on campus, and established the WKU Food Pantry to address food insecurity on campus. The Pantry has been in place since 2014 and continues to be student supported through grants written by students and food donation drives. The pantry is operated out of the Office of Sustainability, but is run by student volunteers.

In fall 2018, a Folk Studies class piloted a pop-up pantry program through the Office of Sustainability. Students spread awareness about food insecurity among college students and aimed to tackle stigmas surrounding the use of such resources. The students passed out food that has been deemed most beneficial to donate by WKU dietetic students. Students also learned of a service opportunity through donating and providing volunteer hours.

In spring 2019, students founded an official chapter of the Food Recovery Network for campus dining locations. They are currently recovering food from Einsteins Bagels and two other dining locations and distributing it to individuals in the Bowling Green community experiencing food insecurity. This student organization collects food nightly from the dining locations and hold weekly meetings to discuss food security issues. They also regularly participate in tabling events on campus to spread the word about the importance of diverting food waste from landfills and addressing food insecurity needs.

In 2020, a student intern has been employed by WKU Restaurant Group to develop programs related to enhancing sustainable food programs on campus.


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:

Two community garden areas have been developed on campus; one for growing vegetables and the other for growing herbs and serving as a sensory garden. Students are engaged in developing the entire landscape as a demonstration of sustainable land use and growing food resources.

In 2015, WKU became a certified Arboretum. Most of our 2500+ trees on the main campus have been labeled with informative signage. Additionally, a GIS student has inventoried each tree in a GIS program and created a webbased interactive map of our campus forest. An interactive map demonstrating carbon sequestration is being developed from these data.

Student athlete and sorority/fraternity groups are given the opportunity to volunteer with grounds maintenance teams on "no power equipment" days and learn about the importance of not always utilizing gas and electric powered equipment in grounds maintenance, as well as the need to manually pull weeds rather than utilizing harmful chemicals.

In 2019, a sustainable architecture and agriculture double major combined her two skill sets to draft plans for renovating the community garden and sensory garden areas of campus. The plans will be implement in spring and summer 2020.

Facilities Management grounds team and WKU Athletics partnered with the students in the department of agriculture to conduct research on turf grass.


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:

Student Government Association in 2016 researched, wrote, and passed two bills: one for the elimination of styrofoam packaging on campus, specifically from retail food outlets, the other for transitioning to a paperless campus. To write appropriate legislation, they researched purchasing policy, history, and feasibility regarding these topics.

In Spring 2017, SGA passed a resolution to end plastic bag consumption in both campus Subway locations. Paper bags are now available upon request.

In 2019, SGA researched food insecurity on campus by developing and distributing surveys to students. They have used these data to develop new purchasing/donation guidelines for the WKU Food Pantry.

Students work with the WKU Surplus Department to wipe clean laptops and other computer devices no longer usable by the University for surplus sale. Student volunteers also help report on the working status of the devices.


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:

Students involved in conducting the University greenhouse gas emissions inventory are involved in the creation of a survey to understand student, faculty, and staff commuting and transportation habits. The survey will not only provide data for the inventory, it allows for informed decisions regarding the encouragement of a car-free campus lifestyle. This survey will be distributed in spring 2020.

Geoscience students are utilizing GIS tools to identifying ideal locations for bike paths and racks to increase bicycle usage on campus.


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 in GEOG 280 are engaged by WKU Resource Conservation in 1-3 waste characterization studies throughout the semester. In this program, WKU Resource Conservation gives a one hour comprehensive waste presentation to familiarize students on waste systems. Resource Conservation then empties 1 landfill dumpster and 1 recycling dumpster on to the ground behind WKU's student union (a highly visible location). Students then sort the waste into 16 categories, record the data and interpret the data. 35-60 students take part in this exercise each semester.

The SGA Sustainability Committee worked with dining services in 2016 to launch two waste reduction initiatives: reusable take out containers in the dining hall and no-bag default at the Subway franchises. These programs are still in operation today.

In 2015, a geosciences graduate student wrote his Master's thesis on waste diversion and minimization at WKU. The paper has since been published and it is still being used to inform decision making in our waste diversion program.

In 2019, students in The $100 Solution House service-learning house developed a composting and recycling program for use in the residence.


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:

Students in the geosciences program regulaly study stormwater management in Karst landscapes, utilizing WKU as a case study.

The WKU Center for Human and Geoenvironmental Studies (CHNGES) has multiple projects related to stormwater management, injection well pollution, and water contamination. Students are engaged through work opportunities and are permitted to conduct their own research in an EPA certified water quality lab on campus.

The commercial dye-tracing laboratory on campus, Crawford Hydrology Lab, allows students to conduct independent dye-tracing research projects in the laboratory. Student workers also assist in completing commercial dye-tracing projects.


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:

Many of the student led projects described in this section can fall under coordination and planning, including the Tree of Change project, SGA policy legislation, the Sustainability Committee ongoing projects. The Office of Sustainability works with students to complete projects and get students involved in sustainability initiatives across campus. The Office of Sustainability also maintains a collaborative space for students to brainstorm ideas and work in teams to solve sustainability problems on campus. Student representatives also serves on the WKU Strategic Plan Committee and Sustainability Champions committee.


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:

Students have researched the topic of Renters' Rights, and formed the Renters Rights Coalition in 2014 to advocate for Renters' Rights of students who live off-campus. In 2017, the student organization was awarded ally of the year by the social justice organization, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
https://wkuherald.com/news/renters-rights-coalition-awarded-ally-of-the-year/article_8004baae-8dc8-11e7-99e0-37b1f72350b4.html


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:

In January 2020, a Dutch exchange student on the WKU campus completed a project to study the economic viability of some of our facilities operations. The intent of her project is to help the University understand how to properly invest in sustainability programs to maximize outcomes while reducing costs.


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 WKU Nutritionist works with Dietetics students on a variety of awareness activities related to the preparation of fresh, local food with cooking demonstrations and samples. Additionally, this group supports the WKU Food Pantry by creating recipes utilizing Food Pantry staples, such as canned corn and beans to create a balanced meal.


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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