State of Sustainability Report 2019

The State of Sustainability 2019 Report documents information from July 2017 to June 2018. This report focuses on where priority actions mentioned in the annual State of Sustainability Reports since 2014 have led to substantial improvements and, in some cases, where the college has regressed in its sustainability performance. Check out the STARS® Snapshot below to learn more about which areas of sustainability Colorado College has significantly increased over the past year.

This years report is brought to you by the Colorado college Office of Sustainability in close collaboration with the Campus Sustainability Council, the Dean's Office, Facilities Services, and the Office of Sustainability Interns. This document has been co-authored by Ian Johnson and Robbie Gardner '19, but is the work of many people on the Colorado College campus. STARS® data used in this report have been compiled by: Ian Johnson, STARS® Interns Robbie Gardner '19 and Sara Dixon '22, with the support of Office of Sustainability volunteer, Maddy Unger '21.

Download the PDF Version of the State of Sustainability 2019 Report.

stars snapshot

The Colorado College State of Sustainability 2019 Report, in a similar approach to the State of Sustainability 2017 Report, is organized around the STARS® organizational model. Individual college goals and efforts, such as efficiency upgrades, community engagement, and carbon neutrality, are captured in this robust metric. In 2017, the STARS® organizational model updated to version 2.1 from 2.0. Versions 2.0 and 2.1 differ only slightly in certain reporting fields and more information can be found on the AASHE website.


SUS_ Draft STARS (4)

topics to explore

*Portions of the text in the category and subcategory descriptions below are used with permission from the AASHE STARS® 2.0 Technical Manuel.



Curriculum refers to formal education programs and courses that address sustainability. The primary function of Colorado College as an institution of higher education is to educate students. CC is uniquely positioned to prepare students to understand and address sustainability challenges as it trains and educates further leaders, scholars, workers, and professionals. In offering courses that cover sustainability issues, Colorado College has helped to equip its students to lead society to a sustainable future.

CC saw an increase in performance in the curriculum category since the 2016-17 report. CC increased specifically in the Academic Courses category and the Learning Outcomes category. This was due to an increase in the number of courses that meet STARS® criteria for sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses.

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding sustainability in the curriculum:

  1. The College is exploring ways to deliver climate change content to all students through an all-college general education requirement.
  2. The College works continuously to increase the number of courses that include sustainability content.

Colorado College improved in the research category since the 2016-17 year. CC increased specifically in the Support for Research Category. In the past year, CC has developed a resource guide to help faculty fund interdisciplinary sustainability research. While it does not constitute a college-wide program designed specifically to encourage faculty sustainability research, the school is equipped to assist faculty in obtaining funding.


The Campus Engagement subcategory recognizes the importance of providing students with sustainability learning experiences outside the formal curriculum. Engaging in sustainability issues through co-curricular activities allows students to deepen and apply their understandings of sustainability principles. College-sponsored co-curricular sustainability offerings help integrate sustainability into the campus culture and set a positive tone for Colorado College. In addition, this subcategory recognizes the importance of support for faculty and staff engagement, training, and development programs in sustainability. Faculty and staff members' daily decisions impact Colorado College's sustainability performance. Equipping faculty and staff with the tools, knowledge, and motivation to adopt behavior changes that promote sustainability is an essential activity of a sustainable campus.

Campus Engagement

Colorado College saw an increase in score in the campus engagement category due to the introduction of the Excel at CC certificate in sustainability. This certificate program greatly increased the number of staff members who receive information and training about sustainability topics and college goals and efforts as part of their professional development. Topics that were taught include but not limited to: Carbon Offsets and Renewable Energy Credits, Colorado Springs water 101, Sustainable Travel, and Zero Waste.

Public Engagement

The Public Engagement category recognizes efforts that give back to our community through community service, engagement, and partnerships. Volunteerism and the sense of compassion that community service helps develop are fundamental to achieving sustainability. From tutoring children to removing invasive species to volunteering in the community; students, faculty, and staff can make tangible contributions that address sustainability challenges through community service. Community engagement can help students develop leadership skills while deepening their understanding of practical, real-world problems. Colorado College can contribute to our campus community by harnessing our financial and academic resources to address community needs. In addition, we can contribute to sustainability broadly through inter-campus collaboration, engagement with external networks and organizations, and public policy advocacy.

CC saw a significant increase in the public engagement category of the STARS® report due to CC taking on a mentorship program through AASHE with Transylvania University. Colorado College also participates in collaborative efforts with other universities along the front-range area twice a year to discuss various sustainability initiatives and programs. This mentorship program took place during the academic years of 2016-17 and 2017-18.


  1. The College is exploring opportunities to meet with different military, government, and faith-based groups in an attempt to bridge the gap between demographic groups and bring thoughtful, fact-based information about climate change to groups who may be less receptive to the idea. The main goal is to increase overall sustainability engagement in the greater Colorado Springs community.


Air and Climate

The Air and Climate subcategory pertains to CC's measurement of and action to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. In 2009 Colorado College signed the American College and University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), outlining its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2020. Since 2008, the college has recorded and published annual inventories of greenhouse gas emissions. The inventory covers scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

The college saw a significant increase in the Air and Climate category performance since 2017. This is due to continued decreases in the college's greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, on-campus emissions were down 57% from the 2008 base year; Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions were down 34% from the 2008 base year. These emissions reductions are largely due to increases in campus efficiency in heating, cooling, and lighting; replacement of the existing Tutt Library with the fully renovated net-zero carbon Tutt Library; and a shift in grid energy fuels. Colorado College's strong advocacy has helped shift grid energy fuels over the past decade.

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding air and climate:

  1. The college continues to pursue its goal of carbon neutrality by 2020. The college and CSC are continuously working on innovative strategies to meet this goal. For example, CC is partnering with the local D11 school district on a small-scale pilot project to reduce emissions in cost-effective ways at the school, thereby allowing CC to verify carbon offsets through reductions from its efforts while providing electrical savings to a public school.
  2. CC has purchased local renewable energy credits and carbon offsets to mitigate the additional footprint taken on through the merger with the Fine Arts Center.
  3. CC continues to actively work with Colorado Springs Utilities to find ways to provide up to 100 percent of our energy usage with renewable energy. Doing so would eliminate all scope 2 emissions.

***Insert GHG Inventory Graph***


The buildings subcategory pertains to steps that Colorado College is taking to improve the sustainability performance of its buildings. Buildings are one of the largest users of energy and are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions on campus. They also use significant amounts of potable water. By designing, constructing, and maintaining buildings in ways that provide a safe and healthy indoor environment for inhabitants while simultaneously mitigating the building's impact on the outdoor environment, Colorado College can address the sustainability of its buildings.

Colorado College saw no significant change in Buildings since the 2016-2017 report. Colorado College continues to require that new buildings, additions to existing buildings, or existing building renovations should minimize building life-cycle costs, direct and indirect, relating to energy use, maintenance, waste disposal and occupant health & productivity. Life-cycle costs should be based on a "whole-building perspective", rather than from the perspective of individual building systems or components.

This was the first year that the college's new net-zero energy/ net-zero carbon library was counted in the STARS® report. The library opened in the fall semester of the 2017-18 academic year. Included in the project is a geothermal energy field beneath Armstrong Quad, 115-kilowatt rooftop solar array, 400-kilowatt offsite solar array, green roof-top garden, and a 130-kilowatt combined heat and power system. The net-zero energy Tutt Library has received numerous innovation and design awards nationwide.

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding buildings:

  1. The College has committed to building the country's' first carbon neutral hockey arena: Robson Arena. This new state of the art arena will replace Honnen Ice Rink, the most energy intensive building on campus.
  2. CSC continues to certify individual staff and faculty offices under its Green Office Program.
  3. CC scores lower in this category due to the fact that no new buildings on campus are certified the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or other rating system. LEED is an international third-party recognition system that certifies buildings as 'green'. Colorado College has moved away from 'pay to play' certification systems that do not guarantee any specific performance, instead focusing its construction budgets on impacting building performance, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. All new buildings adhere to LEED standards, including commissioning and retro-commissioning. The Office of Sustainability is investigating alternatives for increasing this score that does not involve high-cost certification systems.
Food and Dining

The Dining Services subcategory pertains to efforts at Colorado College to help build a sustainable food system. Modern industrial food production often has deleterious environmental impacts. Pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture can contaminate ground and surface water, which has potentially dangerous impacts on wildlife and human health. Furthermore, the often long-distance transportation of food to CC produces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution. Additionally, farm workers are often paid substandard wages, subjected to harsh working conditions, and exposed to dangerous pesticides. Colorado College can use its food purchases to support local economies; encourage safe, environmentally friendly farming methods; and help alleviate poverty for farmers.

The college saw no significant change in this category. The college still only claims less than 40% of possible points. Colorado College's primary dining services contractor, Bon Appetit, has a published sustainable dining policy which states that they are committed to healthy and sustainable dining at Colorado College. The quality of products being purchased is assessed based on local, ecological, fair trade, and humane expenditures.

Work between the Office of Sustainability and Bon Appetit is ongoing.


Colorado College continues to address its energy consumption through conservation and efficiency and by switching to cleaner and renewable energy sources, particularly wind and solar. Energy consumption directly impacts our greenhouse gas emissions, impacting global climate change. Energy costs are also one of the most volatile operating expenses the college grapples with. Reducing or overall energy use and becoming self-sufficient to the largest degree possible stabilizes these costs and allows us to better plan for future costs while reducing our associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The college saw no significant change in the energy consumption category since the 2016-17 report. That being said, CC did experience a 16.1% increase in energy consumption due to the acquisition of the Fine Arts Center. However, since the baseline year in 2008, the CC campus has decreased energy intensity per square foot by 28.0%, even with the addition of the Fine Arts Center.

**Updated utility cost summary from 2017 Energy Report attached separately

**Updated Avoided Utility Cost

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding energy:

  1. Facilities Services has multiple projects underway. *These highlighting examples can be found in the 2018 Energy Report published in September 2018 by Mark Ferguson.
    1. Completion of Tutt Library, East Campus Housing, and Cutler Center has reduced total energy use and increased energy sources from renewables at these locations.
    2. The Central Plant Water Conservation and Heat Recovery Project was completed in 2018. The project reduced water consumption at the Williams Central Plant by approximately 3.5M gallons. The project improves central plant efficiency and reduced water use and cost.
    3. Work continued on as many facilities on campus were converted to LED lighting. This projects leverages utility rebates to assist with the restoration and replacement of campus lighting.
    4. Significant work was put into planning and incorporating energy efficiency with the integration of the Fine Arts Center into campus maintenance operations. Projects include LED lighting upgrades.
  2. Facilities Services and the Office of Sustainability are pursuing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Colorado Springs Utilities to provide 100% renewable energy to Colorado College by 2020.

The Grounds subcategory recognizes and recommends areas where Colorado College plans and maintains its grounds in accordance with sustainability principles. Beautiful and welcoming campus grounds can be planned, planted, and maintained without the use of toxic chemicals and while protecting wildlife habitat, and conserving water and resources. Colorado College has excelled in sustainable landscaping by means of its centralized irrigation control system, use of non-potable water, and placement of several native plant gardens on campus.

The college saw no significant change in its grounds score for the 2017-18 report. In the spring of 2017, the college was officially certified as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and continues to maintain this certification. This means that tree care and health on campus is standardized and trees will henceforth be cared for by our campus arborist and supported by the tree advisory committee made up of faculty, staff, students, and community partners. As part of the certification, CC annually hosts an Arbor Day event, in which students volunteer to work with CC staff in planting and maintaining trees and gardens on campus.

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding grounds:

  1. Guide future campus landscape projects to ensure planting areas favor xeric and native species over water-intensive Kentucky Bluegrass.
  2. Educate the campus and Colorado Springs community on the benefits of planting species that are less water-intensive and better suit for the semi-arid climate of Colorado. This can be accomplished by community led xeriscaping projects and placards that call out campus xeriscaping locations.
  3. Educate the campus community on the appropriate nature of Kentucky Bluegrass in high-use areas where a resilient groundcover is needed (e.g. - main quad spaces).

Colorado College can use its purchasing power to help build a sustainable economy. Each purchasing decision represents an opportunity for CC to choose environmentally and socially preferable products and services that support companies with strong commitments to sustainability.

The college saw no significant change since the 2016-2017 report. The college has been without a purchasing manager for the past two years. Therefore, there are no current initiatives by Campus Sustainability Council or the Office of Sustainability to improve sustainability in purchasing, although there is room for future improvement primarily in Office Paper Purchasing, Inclusive and Local Purchasing, and Guidelines for Business Partners.


Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants that contribute to health problems such as heart and respiratory diseases and cancer. Due to disproportionate exposure, these health impacts are frequently more pronounced in low-income communities next to major transportation corridors. In addition, the extraction, production, and global distribution of fuels for transportation can damage environmentally and/or culturally significant ecosystems and may financially benefit hostile and/or oppressive governments.

The college's transportation saw a significant decrease since the 2016-17 report. This decrease was seen entirely in the Employee Commute Modal Split section. This was due to a 28% decrease in the number of employees that use more sustainable commuting options as their primary method of transportation.

While we saw a decrease in our transportation score, the college implemented a $0.01 per-mile surcharge to the vehicle fleet. The money from this surcharge is used to purchase regionally-based carbon offsets for fleet vehicle usage.

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding transportation:

  1. In 2017 the Office of Sustainability partnered with Mountain Metro Transit to provide all students with unlimited access to bus routes using their student ID. This program is funded with student activity fees allocated by the Colorado College Student Government Association and runs throughout the academic year.
  2. Colorado College is an anchor sponsor to PikeRide, a bike share program for the City of Colorado Springs. CC has four geofenced docking stations on campus and all students have free access to annual memberships to PikeRide. During the 2018-19 academic year, students rode over 8,500 miles on PikeRide memberships. In the 2019-20 academic year, the program will expand to include faculty and staff memberships.
  3. The college introduced a transportation offset option for employees and students that travel in their time at Colorado College. Students and Faculty can offset their travel to and from school online for a small price. At this time, the contribution are voluntary. As CC continues to make strides in offsetting transportation, office and departments will hopefully include offsetting their cost in their budget planning.

The Waste category highlights management practices and areas where Colorado College can improve by moving toward zero waste by reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting. These actions mitigate the need to extract virgin materials, such as trees and metals. It generally takes less energy and water to make a product with recycled materials than with virgin resources. Reducing waste generation also reduces the flow of waste to incinerators and landfills, which produce greenhouse gas emissions, can contaminate air and groundwater supplies, and tends to have disproportionate negative impacts on low-income communities. Waste reduction and diversion also save Colorado College costly landfill and hauling service fees. In addition, waste reduction campaigns can engage the entire campus and broader community in contributing to a tangible sustainability goal.

CC saw no significant change in the waste score since the 2016-17 report.

Below are the top initiatives at work regarding waste:

  1. Facilities services, Sodexo, Bon Appetit, and CSC have worked to install uniform landfill, compost, and recycling centers across campus. This is an expanded program from an initial pilot in the Worner Center in 2014. These containers clearly designate waste streams and are intended to increase the college's diversion rate from a landfill.
  2. The Office of Sustainability is pursuing an updated waste management contract that would require waste haulers to measure to weigh all loads picked up from campus year-round.

This category applies to efforts and recommendations to protect water quality. Because pumping, delivering, and treating water are major energy users, Colorado College can help reduce energy consumption and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy generation by conserving water. Likewise, conservation and effective storm water management are important in maintaining and protecting finite groundwater supplies. Water conservation and effective storm water management also reduce the need for effluent discharge into local surface water supplies, which helps improve the health of local water ecosystems.

The college earned all possible points both the Water Use and Rainwater Management categories. The college has reduced total water usage by 38% since 2008. The grounds department implements a number of water-saving landscaping strategies across campus and is continually improving those.

Additionally, the Office of Sustainability offers both a three-day water tour as part of its Sense of Place program to follow the source of water to Colorado Springs and an Excel Course, 'COS Water 101'. Water in Colorado and in the western United States is a particularly salient sustainability issue.

Planning and Administration

Coordination, Planning, and Governance

This subcategory recognizes the institution's efforts to address sustainability at Colorado College through the dedication of resources, developing plans to move toward a more sustainable campus, and the engagement of students, staff, and faculty in governance. Staff and other resources help CC organize, implement, and publicize sustainability initiatives. These resources provide the infrastructure that fosters sustainability within CC. Sustainability planning affords an institution the opportunity to clarify its vision of a sustainable future, establish priorities and help guide budgeting and decision making. Strategic planning and internal stakeholder engagement in governance are important steps in making sustainability a campus priority and may help advocates implement changes to achieve sustainability goals.

The college saw no significant change in this section's score since the 2016-17 report.

Wellbeing and Work

This subcategory pertains to Colorado College's incorporation of sustainability into its human resources programs and policies. The college's people define its character and capacity to perform; and so, its achievements can only be as strong as its community. CC has bolstered the strength of its community by making fair and responsible investments in its human capital. Such investments include offering benefits, wages, and other assistance that serve to respectfully and ethically compensate workers and acting to protect and positively affect the health, safety, and well-being of the campus community. Investment in human resources is integral to the achievement of a healthy and sustainable balance between human capital, natural capital, and financial capital.

The college saw a decrease in this category from 2016-17. This is due to a reporting error. Previously, Colorado College calculated the living wage for a single employee using the Mountain States Council. Per college policy, all employees and contract employees are paid this living wage. In the newest version STARS® , all institutions are required to use MIT's living wage calculator for a family of two adults and two children. While this change was noted in the 2016-17 STARS® report for all CC employees, contract employee numbers receiving this new definition of a living wage were not properly updated. The error has been corrected, leading to a decrease from the previous score. All employees and contract employees continue to be paid a living wage per college policy, regardless of the STARS® definition. There are no plans to update college policy to reference living wage standards for a four-member family.

Exemplary Practice

Exemplary practice credits are optional and recognize specific initiatives that demonstrate sustainability leadership. Unlike Innovation credits, which are time-limited, Exemplary Practice credits may be claimed in multiple submissions as long as the criteria are being met at the time of submission.

CC reports on all fields it feels address the many active sustainability initiatives on campus.

Below is a list of the exemplary practice credits the college submitted in the 2018 STARS® report:

Sustainability Course Designation

Professors can register their courses as either sustainability-focused courses (T1), which explicitly concentrate on at least three of the objectives listed in the course application and the potential relationships between them, or sustainability-related courses (T2), which focus on one of the objectives listed in the application and perhaps contemplate connections to other topics (objectives following AASHE guidelines). Designated courses for the year can be found on the website.

Green Athletics

The college's green athletics includes offering a fan bus to transport students to World Arena for all Colorado College Hockey home games. Additionally, Washburn Field is a synthetic turf field, eliminating chemical and potable water use, Olson, Stuart and Autrey fields are grass athletic fields all watered with non-potable water.

Green Event Certification

The Green Event Certification is meant to challenge CC students, faculty, and staff to think of the environment when planning and executing events on campus. This criteria was built with student events in mind but can be easily applied to a wide-range of other types of events. The Colorado Eco-Event Criteria is broken into 3 categories: Waste, Food & Drink, and Other.

Certified Green Cleaning

Colorado College has been certified under the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) Cleaning Industry Management Standard for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB) since July of 2015.

Green Laboratories

The Campus Sustainability Council Green Science Committee addresses Energy Conservation and Efficiency, Water Conservation and Efficiency, Chemical Use and Disposal, Materials Management, and Training for Lab Users on Sustainable Practices through formal audits, staff and faculty training, and future lab planning.

Grounds Certification

As of spring 2017, CC's campus is tree campus certified, meaning tree health is of primary focus for the future. All campus trees are cared for by our campus arborist and supported by the Tree Advisory Committee. The committee is made up of staff, faculty, students, and community members. A tree care plan was created by the committee that marshals tree management. Additionally, each year in celebration of Arbor Day, students are taught how to support tree health and plant xeric trees and gardens.

Bicycle Friendly University

The Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bike friendly campus for students, staff and visitors. The BFU program provides the roadmap and technical assistance to create great campuses for cycling. CC was named a Bicycle Friendly University in the fall of 2015 at the Bronze level and has maintained that certification since.

Natural Wastewater Systems

Per city charter, Colorado College utilizes Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) to handle its wastewater. CSU exceeds its permit requirements to ensure that water is treated in a way that minimizes potential harm to local waterways. As a secondary treatment to wastewater, CSU employs the use of bacteria and other microorganisms which are fed oxygen which allows them to grow and consume other organic materials. Nitrifiers convert ammonia into nitrogen gas while other micro-organisms aid in the removal of phosphorus. All micro-organisms are then removed through settled and are reused time and time again. The facility utilizes ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect wastewater, which eliminates bacteria and enhances the quality of wastewater discharge. The treatment plant has adapted these methods to replace its previous use of gaseous chlorine.


Innovation A: Campus Fleet Surcharge

As previously stated in the Transportation section, the college has implemented a $0.01 surcharge per mile on all of the rental vehicle fleet at CC that help to offset the fleet's carbon emissions. This is a first step towards implementing a campus-wise carbon price.

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