Stanford University, along with other higher education institutions, play a vital role in addressing climate challenges – attracting government, corporations, and individuals to collaborate and develop scalable, global solutions together. This past year has seen great transitions in laying a strong foundation for upcoming opportunities for advancing coordinated campus sustainability efforts to reach beyond Stanford boundaries.
As the steward of sustainability efforts, otherwise known as Sustainable Stanford, the Office of Sustainability continues to oversee progress toward the three sustainability targets laid out in the Long-Range Vision. The university completed its first full year of 100 percent renewable electricity from when its second solar plant went online in 2022. Stanford continues to explore new innovations to improve the reliability of our system and to further reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions to 80% below peak levels by 2025. Furthermore, to improve infrastructure resiliency and limit disruption to teaching and research during heat waves from the past summers, the university nearly doubled its energy system cooling capacity.
Due to more extreme weather events like last winter’s continuous atmospheric river conditions that filled Lake Lagunita, climate action planning is essential more now than ever. The process to update the university’s Climate Action Plan has been initiated with the identification of campus stakeholders and experts across more than 20 focus areas in the themes of mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and climate justice. We are assessing our current climate goals, quantifying baseline emissions that will always be a part of our operational footprint, and developing a comprehensive road map to emission reduction and planning for our climate future.
A key milestone for the Office of Sustainability was entering into a new waste contract with long-time partner and family-owned business, Peninsula Sanitary Service Inc. (PSSI), that provides multiple benefits and new services to achieve our Zero Waste by 2030 goal (defined as having a 90% diversion rate or higher). To make larger strides towards a zero-waste campus, we’ve increased convenience and access to all three major waste streams (recycling, compost, and landfill) to more than half of the campus and launched three task forces around events, cafes, and custodial services. Other wins regarding waste include Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) completing the rollout of Cardinal Clean machines across all undergraduate housing complexes—ensuring that the free, versatile green-cleaning solution is widely accessible. Along with this, Cardinal Clean received the CRRA’s 2023 Outstanding Waste Prevention Award.
A major highlight for the Office of Sustainability this past year was the completion of a multi-year long process for an internal strategic plan. The undertaking consisted of listening sessions and a roadshow for strategic campus partners, community members, and other involved students, staff, and faculty — and arrived at 5 key focus areas: Zero Waste, Campus as a Living Lab, Storytelling, Climate Action, and Climate Resilience.