Stanford lauded for sustainability efforts

solar generating plant
The Stanford Solar Generating Station in Kern County. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Stanford was recently recognized as a top performer in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), according to the OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT.

The 2016 index evaluated more than 800 colleges and universities across 17 different areas of sustainability. Stanford ranked second overall and first in the buildings and water categories. It also was among the top performers in the research and diversity and affordability categories.

Stanford’s Building Sustainability Rating System was highlighted as an innovation in the report. The new tool evaluates building performance in terms of energy, water, waste, transportation, purchasing and occupant engagement. Buildings are scored on how close they are to reaching target performance levels, with specific improvement opportunities identified for each. Stanford was also recognized for constructing and operating its buildings to at least a LEED Gold equivalent, even if the university does not typically pursue formal certification.

The AASHE Sustainable Campus Index also recognized Stanford as the top performer in water conservation, recycling and reuse practices – an area that was weighted more heavily due to the university’s water-stressed location. Technical and system innovations, such as the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project – which reduced campus potable water consumption by 18 percent – and substantial irrigation reductions by many Stanford departments contributed to significant campus-wide water conservation. Stanford also earned praise for encouraging personal water conservation through campaigns like the “Take the Shorter Shower Challenge” and an annual “Water Wars” competition to reduce water usage between student residences.

On the academic side, Stanford was one of seven schools to be awarded full points in the index’s research category, with 75 percent of all research departments and 19 percent of faculty and staff engaged in sustainability research. Institutions in this category were recognized for their role in helping the world understand sustainability challenges and develop new technologies, strategies and approaches in response.

“This evaluation speaks to the depth and breadth of sustainability programs and their true adoption on campus and influence beyond,” said FAHMIDA AHMED, Stanford sustainability director. “Stanford has been a living laboratory of sustainability for a decade now and the results speak for themselves.”

Visit the Sustainable Stanford webpages to learn more.