A medium-sized public university sought to improve the sustainability of its roughly 250-acre urban campus, minimize the environmental impact of its operations, and reduce operational costs. The university sought a third-party evaluation of its existing sustainability initiatives to understand where and how efforts could be improved and further institutionalized. The university also requested recommendations to align its efforts with applicable state sustainability-related regulations and state Executive Orders, and meet the requirements of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS®), a program that recognizes the sustainability performance of higher education institutions.
ERG evaluated the university’s existing sustainability initiatives and campus-wide operations, reviewed data, and developed a sustainability plan to use as a roadmap in guiding comprehensive campus-level strategic sustainability planning and programming. ERG concluded that the university had not established clear sustainability metrics, baselines, or goals, each of which are beneficial when evaluating program success. As such, ERG recommended establishing proper baselines for key performance metrics (e.g., energy consumption, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions), improving sustainability tracking, and measuring building-level energy and water consumption. ERG also made targeted recommendations on specific program areas, such as initiating an energy performance contract; advancing the university’s recycling program, including improved recycling outreach and signage and investigating opportunities for pallet and cardboard recycling at the university’s warehouse; implementing composting of food and landscape waste; and developing a green building policy that mandates certifications and performance standards across all new construction and renovation projects. For each recommendation, ERG offered associated guidance on best practices, tools, and resources to assist with implementation. The sustainability plan provided the university with actionable recommendations to facilitate greater institutional sustainability.