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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Sustainable Stanford, and how is it linked to the Office of Sustainability?

Sustainable Stanford is the brand for the campus effort to reduce the university’s environmental impact, preserve resources, and show sustainability in action. The Office of Sustainability (OOS) serves as the programmatic hub of Sustainable Stanford. Rooted in operations, the Office of sustainability connects various organizations and entities and works collaboratively with them to steer key sustainability initiatives on campus. Complementing academic curricula led by faculty and operational efficiency measures undertaken by facilities staff, the Office of Sustainability creates action-oriented programmatic initiatives that make sustainability both more tangible and more visible at Stanford.

What is Cardinal Green?

Sustainable Stanford's engagement programs are dubbed Cardinal Green.  Cardinal Green includes various conservation campaigns, training, events, student programs and other engagement opportunities for individuals to be a part of Sustainable Stanford throughout the year. Students, staff, faculty and operations team can directly contribute to sustainability efforts by participating in Cardinal Green campaigns – and earn prizes and recognition in the process!

Learn more about Cardinal Green

What results have been realized from sustainability efforts on campus?

Stanford is transforming its energy system through Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI), which has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 68 percent and total campus potable water use by 18 percent since completion in 2015. Our employee drive-alone rate is around 50 percent, compared to 72 percent in 2002 at the start of the enhanced Transportation Demand Management program. The university has also increased its landfill diversion rate from 30 percent in 1994 to about 65 percent and reduced its landfilled tonnage to an all-time low. 

In 2022, Stanford renewed its Platinum rating through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in recognition of its sustainability achievements--making it one of only eleven higher education institutions in the world to reach this milestone at the time.

Stanford has also been recognized in the Princeton Review's Green Honor Roll for the fifth consecutive year, ranking in the top ten on its 2018 Top 50 Green Colleges List. Additionally, the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) honored the My Cardinal Green program with a 2018 Sustainable Campus Excellence Award in the Campus Planning and Management Systems category for its efforts to motivate and quantify campus engagement in sustainability. Stanford was also recognized with a Best Practice Award from the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for sustainable design at Stanford Redwood City.  For a more comprehensive report of sustainability efforts on campus, read the our annual Year in Review report that is published every winter.

As a student, how can I get involved?

Students are a driving force behind improving campus sustainability and promoting change, and have a number of opportunities to contribute to Sustainable Stanford. Many Cardinal Green campaigns rely on individual participation for success. If students have an idea to help improve sustainability on campus, they can contact to see that idea to fruition. In addition, there are a number of student groups, sustainability internship opportunities, and year-long Living Lab fellowships that are integral contributors to Sustainable Stanford’s mission. 

What is the priority sustainability issue facing the campus today?

Stanford does not give priority to one sustainability issue over another, instead the campus opts for a more comprehensive, balanced and long term approach to address the variety of environmental problems the campus faces, in relation to the realities of the planet. Key areas of impact that the university has identified include energy, water, transportation, and food and waste management. Visit Campus Operations to learn more about specific steps the university has taken to address these issues.

How does the campus remain irrigated in the drought?

Stanford uses lake water to irrigate the golf course, agricultural leaseholds, athletic fields, and campus landscaping. By using lake water, Stanford conserves more than 1 million gallons a day of the limited, high-quality potable water supply. Lake water is only plumbed to outside fixtures for irrigating landscaped areas, and it is not drinking or domestic water. Stanford's lake water system is an important element of the long-term sustainable water supply for the campus. The primary source of the lake water is untreated surface water runoff from the local streams.

Where can I find information about recycling?

Stanford has a long history of recycling and reuse. Students began the recycling program in 1976, and in 1993 Stanford partnered with its recycling and waste hauler, Peninsula Sanitary Service, to develop a more comprehensive program. Stanford currently recycles paper, film plastics (such as bubble wrap and plastic bags), bottles and cans, yard trimmings, food scraps, wood, and construction and demolition waste.

Learn more about recycling at Stanford

What can I get for contributing to Sustainable Stanford?

Aside from contributing to the environmental health of the campus and helping with resource savings, there are a number of community and recognition-based incentives for participating in Cardinal Green programs. Along with recognition in university publications, participants can earn gift card prizes, with greater opportunities for those who excel in the program.

Learn more about Cardinal Green