Sustainable Stanford

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 is one of only two universities to receive a Platinum rating in the National Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) based on Stanford’s sustainability achievements in operations, academics, engagement, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

Installation of Stanford solar array in Kern County, California
Image credit: L.A. Cicero


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 to go 100 percent solar by 2021

A second solar-generating plant, to be built in the next three years, will complete the university’s transition to clean power and further shrink campus greenhouse gas emissions.

Stanford unveils innovative solar generating station

Leading the way in sustainability and innovative green technologies, Stanford celebrated the opening of the Stanford Solar Generating Station in Kern County, Calif. The station will provide more than 50 percent of Stanford’s electricity.

Stanford Energy System Innovations

Stanford has converted to a state-of-the-art energy system that relies on renewable electricity and provides a new transformational energy supply model for large organizations, utilities and governments.

Stanford University energy initiatives

The university supports a comprehensive effort to reduce fossil fuel-based energy use in Stanford's academic and administrative buildings through conservation, improved efficiency and on-site renewable power generation.

Stanford Energy System Innovations project wins more awards

The project, known as SESI, has transformed Stanford into one of the most energy-efficient research universities in the world. The accolades have now gone global.

A waste audit held at the PSSI facility on Bonair Siding. Members of the Medical school facilities team as well as student volunteers and PSSI campus liason Julie Muir attended.
Image credit: L.A. Cicero


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 urges everyone to ‘Say Goodbye to Single Use’

During its annual conservation campaign, Sustainable Stanford is encouraging everyone on campus to “say goodbye” to drinking and dining items designed to be used once and thrown away, such as plastic utensils, and switch to their reusable counterparts.

Annual lab swap diverts unused supplies from landfill

More than 100 Stanford laboratories got rid of unneeded equipment and reagents and found new-to-them gems at the annual lab swap, part of Stanford’s Cardinal Green Labs program.

Stanford remains committed to zero-waste goal despite shakeup in the global recycling industry

Julie Muir, manager for Peninsula Sanitary Service/Stanford Recycling, says good recycling habits and a strong commitment to sustainability have kept Stanford on track to reach its goal of becoming a zero-waste campus by 2030.

An experiment in sustainability: Change habits, not infrastructure

In the first schoolwide program of its kind on campus, the Graduate School of Education is intentionally creating a culture of conservation, changing the way people work and live in the school to become more sustainable.

Stanford University waste initiatives

Waste initiatives at Stanford helped divert more than 16,300 tons of materials from landfills since 2015.

Students glean fresh produce for community members

Students in the Stanford Gleaning Project volunteered to harvest fruits and vegetables across campus for donation to underserved populations in the Bay Area.

Where one Stanford person’s trash is another’s treasure

From a warehouse at 340 Bonair Siding, the Surplus Property Sales staff sells everything from computers to furniture to vehicles – all at significantly reduced prices.

Terman fountain and surrounding lawn
Image credit: Tamer Shabani


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’s Codiga Resource Recovery Center

The new Codiga Resource Recovery Center could revolutionize the 100-year-old wastewater treatment paradigm while it helps accelerate the commercialization of promising new technologies.

Children’s hospital to tap sustainable water practices

Architects, designers and planners for the expansion of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford are working to significantly reduce water consumption.

Stanford University water resources

Stanford manages its vital water resources to meet the current needs while preserving ecological systems and resources for future generations.

Student receives regional award for campus water conservation efforts

Stanford student Andrew Jacobs received the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award for water conservation leadership, including an app to report water leaks and initiative to install a solar-powered water catchment system for irrigation.

Stanford’s fountains to begin flowing again

The university will begin bringing its fountains back to life after an assessment of water use and implementation of conservation measures.

A group of students in Stanford shirts surrounding the student-designed solar car. One student driver is in the car and another is closing the door.
Image credit: Tamer Shabani


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.

Educational farm hosts classes from across campus

Stanford Earth aims to draw more than 1,000 students from multiple majors for field learning every year at its working farm, complete with animals and crops.

Making Stanford’s Roble Hall sustainable for its second century

The historic Roble Hall houses a multifaceted program that focuses on hard questions, like how to get 300 students engaged daily and deeply with sustainability.

Students organize petition for sustainable serviceware at campus cafés

Students for a Sustainable Stanford launched an awareness campaign and petition to reduce the number of single-use coffee cups that are used on campus every day.

Home sweet Start.Home

An enterprising team of Stanford students has designed a low-cost, solar-powered home that could lead the home-building industry to a more sustainable future and guide homeowners toward greener behavior.

Student sustainability groups

More than 15 student groups actively engage in advocating for clean air and water, sustainable business, environmental justice and eliminating food waste, among other initiatives.

Stanford Earth launches new Big Data intro course

The course is one of many ways students gain exposure to the forces that impact Earth and its inhabitants.

Students working in the Roble Hall vegetable garden
Image credit: Aaron Kehoe

Campus life

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.

What is sustainability? A conversation with Stanford Earth Dean Pamela Matson

Sustainability efforts today are critical to meet the needs of people now and over the long term, and Stanford has a leadership role.

Stanford’s Environment and Energy Building achieves Platinum grade

The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the highest certification for sustainability in operations and maintenance to Stanford’s Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building.

Stanford achieves top ranking for sustainability

Stanford is one of two universities to receive a Platinum rating for sustainability efforts.

Medical center recognized for outstanding green practices

Stanford University Medical Center’s long list of green initiatives has been awarded a special honor by the health-care industry’s nationally recognized leader in environmentally responsible operations.

Stanford Athletics is showing its greener side

Stanford Athletics is working to reduce its environmental footprint and raise awareness about its commitment to sustainability.

Stanford’s new Parking & Transportation Services director talks peak-hour traffic, ‘green’ Marguerites, parking

Reducing peak-hour vehicle trips remains a top priority for Stanford and for the university’s transportation director.

Stanford launches ‘My Cardinal Green’ rewards program for students, faculty, staff

Under Sustainable Stanford’s new program, faculty, students and staff can receive rewards for doing simple but meaningful acts that reduce the university’s environmental footprint.