Executive Summary

Sustainability is a core value at Stanford, deeply integrated into academics, campus operations, communications, and the campus lifestyle. Sustainability teachings and practices enrich our students’ academic experience, reduce the university’s environmental impact, save resources, and engage the campus community.

This executive summary provides an overview of Sustainability at Stanford: A Year in Review, 2014-15. It summarizes key accomplishments, results, and trends, as well as offering some insight into the work ahead.

Annual Highlights

Overall Sustainability

For the third consecutive year, Stanford is on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll, which lists universities that achieve the highest score—99—in the review’s annual green rating of 804 institutions. The review includes this information in its print and online college selection guides. Additionally, Stanford placed fourth on BestColleges.com‘s Greenest Universities list.

The Princeton Review largely bases its rankings on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) of the national Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Stanford received a Gold rating from STARS in 2014, increasing its 2012 score by 6 percentage points. Every two years, more than 300 colleges and universities report into various versions of STARS. Stanford will submit its data again in 2016.

Interdisciplinary Research and Sustainability Curricula

Stanford continues to produce leading interdisciplinary research to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental problems. The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Precourt Institute for Energy (PIE), and others award millions of dollars each year to innovative new research projects. On the curricular side, the shift in undergraduate requirements from a discipline-based to a capacity-based model enables students to take sustainability-related courses that also count toward breadth requirements. All seven schools offer a wide range of environmental and sustainability-related courses and research opportunities, with over 750 sustainability-related graduate and undergraduate courses offered across campus.

Greening of the Energy Supply

Stanford has transformed its energy system through Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI), which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and total campus potable water use by 15%. With additional renewable energy partnerships coming online in 2016, total greenhouse gas reductions will reach 68% by the end of 2016. The SESI website has a multitude of fact sheets, brochures, and videos that detail the project from initial planning to completion in April 2015.

Leadership in Building Design and Construction

The university replaced the energy efficiency goal of 30% beyond code with whole-building energy performance targets derived specifically for each new building coming online. In addition to the Stanford Energy System Innovations project, Stanford has a multitude of projects in development that will incorporate some of the most aggressive performance benchmarks in the industry today.

Robust Energy Efficiency Programs

The university continuously works to reduce energy use in existing buildings and to incorporate energy efficiency best practices into all new buildings. Programs like the Whole Building Energy Retrofit Program and Energy Retrofit Program provide rebates for updating buildings with the most efficient systems possible, and a new focus on building control systems has maximized the potential for sustainable performance. As of 2014, Stanford has reduced energy intensity on campus 8% from a 2000 baseline, despite continued campus growth.

Expanded Alternative Transportation Options

In 2014, the employee drive-alone rate is at 49%, compared to 72% in 2002 at the inception of the enhanced Transportation Demand Management program. Commute-related emissions remain below 1990 levels, and this year saw record turnout for the annual Bike to Work Day. Additionally, Stanford has expanded access to electric vehicle charging stations as well as increasing the number of electric vehicles in its Marguerite and campus fleets.

Expanded Water Conservation

Stanford has an extensive history of water conservation, and in the face of four consecutive years of drought has enhanced its sustainable water practices by managing available resources to meet its needs, while preserving ecological systems and vital resources for future generations. Stanford has reduced its potable water consumption by 31% since 2001.

Higher Landfill Diversion Rate

Stanford increased its landfill diversion rate from 30% in 1994 to 64% in 2014 and reduced its tonnage sent to landfill to an all-time low.

Sustainability Enhancements in Food and Living

Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) Sustainable Food and Living programs help to influence generations of students to lead sustainable lifestyles, not only on campus but in their future communities. In 2014, food considered sustainable—local, organic, humanely raised, fairly traded, and from family-owned farms and sustainable fisheries—made up 47% of R&DE food purchases. Housing projects included the expansion of zero-waste and composting programs in dorms, as well as water conservation efforts expected to reduce R&DE’s use of irrigation water 46%.

Behavioral Sustainability

Annual Cardinal Green conservation campaigns engaged the community with sustainability efforts throughout the year. The fourth annual Celebrating Sustainability event took place at the new Central Energy Facility and highlighted the advances the campus has made while encouraging behavioral sustainability. The Earth Day celebration brought together more than 700 guests, 65 volunteers, and 30 campus groups to experience the thriving culture of sustainability on campus.

Collaborative Governance

Sustainability continued to expand as a core value across campus through collaborative partnerships among students, staff, and faculty. The Provost’s Committee on Sustainability finished its third year of collaboration and made progress in integrating sustainability into campus events and expanding the campus-wide Cardinal Green program.

Leadership in Sustainability

Central to the academic endeavor has been the Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability, which boosted interdisciplinary research and teaching in all seven of Stanford’s schools, as well as in interdisciplinary institutes, centers, and associated programs across campus, in recognition of the fact that solutions to complex challenges demand collaboration across multiple fields. The School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, the School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Business, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Humanities and Sciences, the School of Law, and the School of Medicine are leaders in sustainability research and teaching. Leading institutes such as the Stanford Woods Institute (founded in 2004) and PIE (founded in 2009) serve as the academic integration points and coordination platforms for interdisciplinary research and programs.

The Department of Sustainability and Energy Management (SEM) within Land, Buildings & Real Estate (LBRE) leads initiatives on campus physical infrastructure and programs in energy and climate, water, transportation, building operations, and information systems. Office of Sustainability (founded in 2008 as an entity of SEM) connects campus departments and other entities and works collaboratively with them to steer sustainability-specific initiatives. The office works on long-range sustainability analysis and planning, evaluation and reporting, communication and outreach, academic integration, behavior-based programs, and governance coordination.

Creating a bridge between operational groups and academic entities are the Provost’s Committee on Sustainability and the Sustainability Working Group. With a commitment to uphold sustainability as a visible priority at Stanford, these committees work to encourage and promote collaborations among sustainability programs across schools, institutes, and the Office of Sustainability. Additional critical sustainability partners at Stanford include all LBRE departments; R&DE, which houses its own sustainable food and student housing programs; the Stanford Recycling Center, run by Peninsula Sanitary Service, Inc.; University Communications; Government and Community Relations; the Alumni Association; and over 20 student organizations.

Through the efforts and collaboration of Sustainable Stanford and its partners across campus, sustainability can truly be seen as a core value on campus, with initiatives to enhance it as a tangible component of campus life taking place throughout the year.