Complementing academic curricula led by faculty and operational efficiency measures undertaken by facilities staff, action-oriented programmatic initiatives led by OOS help make sustainability both more tangible and more visible at Stanford.

In a unique position to articulate sustainability initiatives from all campus stakeholder groups, OOS focuses on six key areas of programs and services, backed up by plans and metrics. The program and service areas are infrastructural planning support; assessments, evaluations, and reporting; business systems; conservation programs; communications, training, and education; and collaborative governance.

In its formative years, OOS focused on institutionalizing sustainability through conservation and communication programs and services. In recent years, OOS focused on enhancing its outreach and assessment programs while establishing trainings and targeted resources to increase engagement and realize direct savings potential in identified areas of high impact. As the programs and services have helped establish sustainability as a core value campus wide, OOS is now operating as a business office in service of sustainability programs for its parent departments and the university.


1. Infrastructural Planning Support

As the programmatic arm of operational sustainability efforts at Stanford, OOS works with the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management (SEM) and various other units across campus operations and academic groups to help develop long-term plans to improve campus operations and infrastructure.

Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) outreach support: As final details of SESI wrapped up, OOS provided consistent support for outreach and presentations on the SESI program across campus and to external audiences. The office produced a video highlighting the accomplishments of all who worked to implement this groundbreaking initiative and, with support from University Communications, hosted a press conference attended by President Hennessy and university leadership to unveil the facility to a wider audience. Detailed project brochures, fact sheets, and FAQs are available on the SESI website, and OOS offers weekly tours to the campus community and the public that have been attended by university staff, students, and faculty, as well as representatives of local, regional, and national entities, including President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

President Hennessy speaking at the Central Energy Facility opening press conference

President Hennessy speaking at the CEF opening press conference

2. Assessments, Evaluations, and Reporting

OOS diligently tracks key performance indicators related to campus resource use and trends. This evaluation work is critical to assessing Stanford’s success in advancing the sustainability of both its physical campus and its programmatic and academic offerings. The following overview provides background and results for the key elements of the OOS evaluations and assessment program.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory: Completing an annual emissions inventory is an important step in monitoring and reducing the university’s GHG emissions. Stanford’s GHG emissions totaled approximately 178,800 metric tons of CO2 in 2014. Since 2006, Stanford has prepared and filed independently verified inventories of its Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Emissions have remained relatively flat for a number of years but will significantly decrease in coming years as a result of the SESI program.

Third-party evaluations: OOS regularly participates in various annual third-party sustainability evaluations. Stanford renewed its Gold rating through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System evaluation in 2014, and earned a spot on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll in 2015 for the third consecutive year.

Building performance: OOS has worked closely with buildings and facilities staff to determine the best path toward building sustainability and how to engage the campus community in improving building performance.

Interns tracking the plug load inventory participants

Interns tracking the plug load inventory participants

  • To better understand plug load energy consumption in buildings, OOS conducted a Plug Load Equipment Inventory in 2014 to collect data on standard types of electricity-consuming equipment in 220 buildings across campus. OOS interns collected data on over 110,000 pieces of plug load equipment, which are estimated to account for approximately $6.8 million per year in electricity costs and 22% of building energy consumption on campus. OOS distributed the findings to building managers and used the equipment data to identify 33 viable plug load reduction opportunities. These divide into five overarching programs: basic energy efficiency measures through the existing Energy Retrofit Program; space heating improvements; sustainability in information technology; green labs; and procurement strategy. Since then, OOS has formed partnerships and developed strategies to execute each of these programs; to date these efforts have led to a series of energy efficiency pilot studies and the launch of the Cardinal Green Labs program.
  • In 2014-15, OOS rated over 100 buildings on their sustainability performance through an in-house building rating system. The data-driven system evaluates each building’s sustainability performance in six categories: energy, water, waste, purchasing, transportation, and occupant engagement. A letter grade is allocated based on an average of all performance categories, with the intention of motivating future sustainability improvements. The grades will be shared with key stakeholders through school- and department-level report cards starting in fall 2015.

3. Business Systems

SEM has initiated a systems integration project that will address immediate and long-term information system needs. The Utility Metering, Billing, Reporting, and Sustainability (UMBRS) project integrates disparate building controls and metering systems, stores data in a common database, and interfaces with billing data to produce trends and reports that help manage utilities and maximize resource efficiency. Supported by Finance and Administration, it has directly supported the creation of intuitive and user-friendly dashboards that track energy, heating, cooling, and water consumption over time. In 2014, over 100 buildings across campus were outfitted with their own sustainability dashboards, available through a designated Building Performance section of the Sustainable Stanford portal. Individual building performance pages also highlight other sustainability features in each building and recognize Stanford’s network of green building champions. OOS is responsible for operation and maintenance of the UMBRS system for SEM, and the program will develop further in 2016.

4. Conservation Programs

Individual actions and awareness conserve resources, lower utility bills, and contribute to a campus experience consistent with the university’s overall commitment to sustainability. To increase institutional awareness and achieve results, OOS runs campus-wide Cardinal Green conservation campaigns. Each campaign has a specific program goal, relevant messaging, and meaningful incentives to drive conservation and efficiency. The following overview provides background and results for each of the campaigns.

  • The 2014 Cardinal Green Buildings campaign combined Turn Down for Break/Winter Closure and the Cardinal Green Office Program (CGOP, formerly known as the Building Level Sustainability Program). Through the new Sustainable Stanford portal, hundreds of building managers engaged with CGOP and related resources to enhance operations throughout the year. The campaign was a success, with 30 buildings volunteering to participate in CGOP and 181 in Winter Closure; 20 of the latter increased their participation levels. The resulting savings from Winter Closure totaled more than $350,000 in avoided energy costs, which represents 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, or 840 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided.
  • What Could You Make Instead of Waste? served as the new message to address waste on campus and was used to promote the annual RecycleMania contest and programs supported by the Stanford Recycling Center. Through a series of online pledges, trainings, and communications, Stanford has increased awareness of waste reduction best practices to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. In 2015, Stanford competed against over 250 other universities in the national RecycleMania competition and increased its standings among the top 20 in six of the eight categories: Gorilla (3rd), corrugated cardboard (7th), paper (11th), bottles and cans (6th), per capita classic (18th), and food service organics (7th). Campus pledge participation more than doubled from 2014.
  • OOS, with its partners in Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and Goodwill of Silicon Valley, supported the Give & Go move-out program, which seeks to divert students’ unwanted reusable items from landfill by making it convenient for them to donate those items to those in need in the local community. The outreach efforts resulted in diversion of more than 50 tons of materials, including clothing, food, appliances, furniture, and books; 700 students pledged online to participate.

As the Cardinal Green campaign series continues to evolve, OOS will incorporate findings from the latest research and best practices in promoting behavior change, drawing on current academic, operational, and student work across campus.

Winter Closure savings

Winter Closure savings

5. Communications, Events, and Trainings and Education

A campus culture of sustainability cannot be created without widespread awareness of Stanford’s sustainability plans, programs, and achievements. OOS works to promote existing sustainability programs and to publicize campus-wide sustainability actions through a variety of communication and publication channels, including the following.

Communications and Events

  • Sustainability at Stanford Annual Report: Since 2008, OOS has published this annual document highlighting sustainability achievements from the past year. A campus-wide effort incorporating sustainability milestones and achievements of operational, academic, and student partners, the report remains the office’s flagship publication and an invaluable resource to the sustainability community at Stanford.
  • Sustainable Stanford website and portal: The Sustainable Stanford website provides a single source of information on sustainability work across campus. The website includes extensive information on campus metrics, trends, and initiatives, as well as details on how individuals can get involved. A new engagement platform for the campaigns launched in October 2014 and serves as the intersection of information and action. Here individuals can directly affirm their commitment to sustainability initiatives and become engaged with programmatic opportunities. The new portal also features real-time building performance data that can help users clearly understand how their actions affect operations and resource consumption.
  • Cardinal Green Newsletter: As part of its outreach efforts, OOS maintains an electronic newsletter. The Cardinal Green eNewsletter aims to provide an easily digestible update on all things sustainability happening on campus.
  • Celebrating Sustainability annual event: On Earth Day, OOS hosted the fourth annual Celebrating Sustainability Festival, jointly sponsored by academic and operational entities. This year’s event took place at the new Central Energy Facility and featured more than 30 campus groups, who used the celebration as an opportunity to educate the campus community about Stanford’s sustainability achievements through fun, engaging activities and displays. Approximately 700 attendees and 65 volunteers got a first look at the new plant and experienced the thriving culture of sustainability.
  • Keys to Sustainability at Stanford student reception: This annual reception served as an opportunity to educate students about the variety of sustainability offerings in research, academics, and extracurricular activities, and to inspire them to explore environmental sustainability issues. Hundreds of students attended.
Students at Keys to Sustainability

Students at Keys to Sustainability

OOS also regularly engages in on- and off-campus community outreach programs and events. Staff participate in approximately 50 outreach opportunities every year, including conferences, presentations, tours, tabling, and other activities. All campus communications and publications on sustainability are heavily influenced by and consciously integrated with the work of OOS’s academic partners in the School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Precourt Institute for Energy, the Haas Center for Public Service, and their affiliates.

Training and Education

Creating a culture of sustainability on campus requires equipping the community with the tools and information necessary to empower individual change. OOS interacts with faculty, staff, and students to design and implement training and engagement opportunities so that hands-on experience in sustainability is integrated into not only the students’ overall learning experience at Stanford, but also professional opportunities for campus staff. The following are the key elements of the sustainability training and education programs portfolio.

Student Training and Education
  • Student Green Fund: Having completed its seventh year, the Student Green Fund continues to foster student engagement by encouraging leadership in sustainability improvement projects on campus. The 2014-15 fund awarded almost $25,000 in grants for projects that studied food waste in dining halls, piloted a pedal-powered bike light program, and produced a video edition of the “Sustainable Living Guide“. Highlights from this year’s projects are detailed in the 2014-15 Green Fund report. Past projects also continue to benefit campus sustainability.
  • Student internships: Each year, OOS has worked with sustainability partners across campus to provide internship opportunities for students. In 2014-15, the office and its partners offered cross-departmental Sustainable Stanford internships to nearly 25 students. Interns worked on projects on various campus sustainability topics (waste, water, housing, food) under the supervision and direction of campus sustainability staff. Internship position descriptions and final reports are available at
Staff members partake in an energy conservation training

Staff members partake in an energy conservation training

Staff Training and Education

Sustainable Stanford training series: Delivering formal training to the Stanford community was among the key actions identified through the Sustainability 3.0 strategic planning process in 2011. Focused on sustainable behavior and choices, the Sustainable Stanford training series provides a portfolio of training opportunities each year. In 2014-15, OOS partnered with Stanford’s BeWell program to increase training incentives and reach a broader audience base through its Berry program.

  • Sustainable Office Spaces (SST 1000) was offered in November 2014 and reviewed the CGOP and actions that can contribute to a sustainable workspace. Attendees were trained in using energy auditing tools and gained experience identifying areas for conservation.
  • Waste Management Reduction (SST 2000) was offered for the third year, providing a hands-on exploration of waste reduction and management processes and measures at Stanford. Attendance figures for this course have increased each time it is offered.

6. Collaborative Governance

A core value such as sustainability is best integrated through collaborative governance, especially in a large institution like Stanford. Through strategic partnerships among administrative departments, faculty, and students, sustainability is embedded as a value-add supporting Stanford’s mission of education, research, and outreach.

In 2011-12, a group of faculty, staff, and student leaders initiated Sustainability 3.0, a strategic blueprint for the future of sustainability at Stanford. The Sustainability 3.0 process sought to map out a shared and actionable vision for sustainability at Stanford over the next five to 10 years, building on the Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability (2003-11) and the formalization of Sustainable Stanford (2007-present). Major goals stemming from this effort include leading sustainability by example through on- and off-campus actions and maintaining a global influence through sustainability in research, education, and operations.

With these goals in mind, the following three components of collaborative governance actively support the continuation and refinement of sustainability programs.

Provost’s Committee on Sustainability (Since 2012)

The Provost’s Committee on Sustainability continues to implement Sustainability 3.0. This committee was launched in spring 2012 with the intention of bringing key leaders on campus together to focus on sustainability as a core value at Stanford. It meets four times a year, and its functions include overcoming institutional barriers, giving advice, enabling action, and providing feedback to the president and provost.

In 2014-15, the committee supported and encouraged a formal Cardinal Green Events program that was piloted in each member’s department to demonstrate leadership by example. The committee also supported increased collaboration around New Student Orientation and development of a stronger sustainability curriculum for the program. Direct engagement with committee members continues to be instrumental in furthering implementation of OOS programs as well as enabling resource allocation or realignment to topics that deserve more attention.

Sustainability Working Group (Since 2006)

Members of the SWG

Members of the SWG

The SWG prepares policy and program recommendations to advance and implement sustainability practices on campus. It works to implement programs identified by the Provost’s Committee on Sustainability. Chaired by the director of OOS and comprising representatives from all parts of the university, including faculty, staff, and students, the SWG meets monthly. Its mission is to continuously improve Stanford’s leadership in demonstrating environmental sustainability in campus operations; incorporate faculty, staff, and student expertise in the evolving field of sustainability to enhance program development; and advance opportunities for hands-on sustainability-related learning and service in the campus community.

In 2014-15, the SWG met seven times in a workshop format, showcasing problems the university is trying to solve in specific program areas and actively listening for solutions and feedback. The workshops addressed a range of topics, including Cardinal Green campaigns and programs, water conservation, greening athletics, sustainable procurement, and the road to zero waste.

Sustainability Working Teams (Since 2008)

The Sustainability Working Teams assembled in 2008 convene when needed to develop program recommendations, assess progress, and help implement policy recommendations in major operational areas related to sustainability. Each team activates when a specific initiative is under way and may be dormant once a project is being or has been implemented. In 2014-15, working teams were active in evaluation and reporting, food programs, Green Labs, Green Events, and information technology.

OOS programs benefit from the guidance of the SWG as well as the Provost’s Committee on Sustainability. The office staffs both committees to directly address content creation and information dissemination. Collaborative governance by faculty, staff, and students serves as the engine for all the programmatic areas.

Looking Ahead

Moving forward, the office will continue its current programs and support new and additional programs. In the coming academic year, it will integrate new plug load equipment data collected during summer 2015 into its existing data set to further inform plug load reduction programs. OOS will continue to expand those programs, including installing timers on appropriate communal office equipment campus wide, adding more resources to the Cardinal Green Labs program, and revamping power management and server room efficiency Sustainable IT programs.

Now that the sustainability performance of Stanford’s buildings has been rated through the Building Rating System, OOS will begin sharing results with key stakeholders, including leadership of academic departments. The results will be presented in school- and department-level report cards, along with a recommended action plans of how to improve sustainability performance.

Working together with academic entities, the office looks forward to providing additional opportunities for practical training and education to the Stanford community. Plans for 2015-16 include expanding Sustainable Stanford training modules to a wider audience and subject matter, and expanding partnerships with each of the seven schools to provide a targeted approach to sustainability in all components of campus life.

OOS will continue to refine the new sustainability portal with an individual action network. Envisioned as a hub of engagement in sustainability initiatives at Stanford, the site incorporates tools and resources to provide a comprehensive platform for sustainability action on campus. OOS will seek to expand the social engagement experience at the individual level, with targeted opportunities for each user to engage with sustainability in personal, meaningful ways, while connecting to others on campus to foster change. This action network will not only provide custom actions for individuals to improve their environmental footprint, but offer an avenue to incentivize the actions of champions.

Representatives from the Graduate School of Business highlighting sustainability efforts

Representatives from the Graduate School of Business highlighting sustainability efforts

OOS is gearing up to launch the Business Systems program for SEM. Through this program, OOS will have operations and maintenance responsibility for the UMBRS systems integration and reporting analytics project; oversee the enterprise asset management of the department’s activities; and be vigilant on resource efficiency. OOS will lead the implementation of management tool recommendations adopted by SEM leadership, including arrangement of hardware and software deployments and system training for managers and staff.

Finally, OOS will launch its Cardinal Green Events program to the entire campus. Nine organizations across campus participated in a successful pilot during spring quarter with the goal of minimizing the environmental impact of events on campus. Events ranged in size from small departmental meetings of about 50 to campus-wide gatherings of more than 3,000. Targeted analysis of sustainability opportunities and resources enabled significant reductions in waste through the use of reusable decorations and service ware and increased recycling and composting, as well as reduced CO2 emissions as a result of encouraging attendees to use alternative methods of transportation on and around campus.