Sustaining Earth’s resources is more than a matter of academic interest. It’s ingrained in the way Stanford educates students, conducts research, operates its buildings and supports campus life. The university’s sustainability efforts have garnered national attention. It has received a Gold rating in the National Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) for the fourth time last year, earning the second highest score of the nearly 800 institutions that participate in STARS.
Stanford has reduced energy use since 2000 through retrofits to existing buildings, stringent requirements for all new buildings and a groundbreaking new energy plant, which opened in 2015. Stanford Energy System Innovations – combined with extensive solar panel installations – has cut greenhouse gas emissions 68 percent. Renewable energy now provides 65 percent of all campus electricity.
Stanford diverts 65 percent of all waste away from landfill, with a goal of reaching 75 percent by 2020. The first campus recycling program was instigated by students in 1976. Now, extensive recycling and compost bins are available on campus and more than 80 buildings participate in a deskside recycling program. In addition, organizations such as the student-led SPOON (Stanford Project on Hunger) bring food from campus to community social service agencies.
Stanford has an aggressive water conservation and efficiency program that has led to a 47 percent reduction in domestic water use since 2001. That program includes retrofitting projects, incentives to install water-wise fixtures and competitions to reward dormitory residents for efficient water use. The campus also makes extensive use of non-potable lake water, which is used for over 85 percent of all landscape watering.
Stanford students have been drivers of campus sustainability programs, with several active groups dedicated to green initiatives on and off campus. Beyond student-led efforts, Stanford Earth has created classes to help all students integrate environmental coursework into their majors with the goal of creating future sustainability leaders in all fields.
The Stanford campus makes it easy for students, faculty and staff to live with a light environmental footprint. All new buildings are required to meet strict energy and water use requirements and most campus eateries support sustainable food production and compostable dining materials. Even getting to work can be easy on the environment with programs to encourage public transportation, biking and carpools.