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A living lab

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Stanford has significant campus goals for reducing waste and emissions as part of our commitment to being a living lab for sustainability solutions. Programs and technologies developed here can help governments, businesses, or other campuses achieve their own sustainability goals. Many of these efforts are driven by the Office of Sustainability.

Stanford is one of only 11 universities to achieve the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Platinum rating. Stanford is also among the top three universities in the energy category of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) 2021 Sustainable Campus Index.

Crew on an icescape


Stanford set a goal of generating 100 percent of campus electricity needs from renewable sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below peak levels by 2025 — both of which the university achieved in 2022 when a second solar energy plant came online – and the university has committed to reaching at least net-zero emissions from its operations by 2050. The remaining emissions are mostly from fleet vehicles and shuttle buses in addition to natural gas-powered equipment such as heat pumps, and appliances in laundry facilities or labs. See the Office of Sustainability’s 2020–21 year in review for more information about emissions goals and next steps.

An important step to powering campus energy needs through renewable sources is reducing the overall energy consumption of the university. In 2020–21, Stanford completed more than 30 Energy Retrofit Projects, avoiding more than $430,000 in energy costs. As of 2020, Stanford has reduced energy intensity on campus 36% from a 2000 baseline.

In addition, the campus is focusing on emissions generated through operations like business travel and purchasing of supplies and services, known as Scope 3 emissions. Tackling these emissions will not only help Stanford reach its goals, but also establish a path for other institutions and for the more than 100 companies that have made net-zero emissions pledges.

Emission reduction updates

A woman walks through an art installation of plastic bottles diverted from a landfill



Stanford has also set a goal of being waste-free by 2030, which involves diverting 90 percent of waste from landfill. In 2020 Stanford diverted 67 percent of waste from landfill through recycling and composting, and by providing responsible purchasing guidelines to the campus community. Reaching the final goal will require upgrades to the recycling program, expanded waste stations, and other efficiencies. 

See the Office of Sustainability’s 2020–21 year in review for more information about waste reduction goals and next steps.

Waste reduction updates