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Communication is an essential tool for engaging the community, encouraging leadership and inspiring creative action. There is an increasing recognition that much of the educational value of sustainability initiatives is lost if the story is not told. Motivating engagement in sustainability depends on communicating both the challenges the University faces and the opportunities that are available to help address them.

Goal, Strategies & Progress

Goal: Expand the discourse about sustainability on campus, in the local community and across the nation.

Strategy: Publicize campus sustainability news and events through the offices of Sustainability and Communications.

  • The 2011 Sustainability Report is the third annual compilation of data available online for key audiences. Each report also is distilled in a four-page handout of highlights, and brought to the attention of media through a news release distributed by the Office of Communications.
  • The University has signed on to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. The tool was developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education with broad participation from the higher education community. Princeton will begin reporting its sustainability progress using STARS in 2011.
  • The Office of Sustainability and the Office of Communications have begun the discovery phase of a process to build a new sustainability website that enhances and streamlines the management of information across multiple communications platforms; serves as a repository for data, events, reports, projects, funding proposal submissions and more; presents information in a well-organized, professional and enticing manner; and accelerates changes in personal and institutional habits, behaviors and perceptions by showcasing campus community initiatives, enhancing social networking, and improving access to timely, engaging, practical, and relevant sustainability information and resources.
  • The Office of Communications has created a Sustainability Priority Project Team, designating key resources to devise and implement a communications strategy for University sustainability efforts.
  • The Office of Sustainability began publishing a monthly e-newsletter, titled Sustainability News. The e-newsletter is distributed to students, faculty and staff and provides updates on all things related to campus sustainability.
  • Lucid Design building performance touch-screen dashboards were installed in Frick Chemistry Laboratory and Butler College, providing access to performance data on green features such as green roofs, energy-efficient fume hoods and more.
  • The Office of Sustainability created and maintains a public online calendar for campus-related sustainability meetings, events, lectures and other activities.
  • The Office of Communications produced nearly 20 postings (stories, photos and videos) focusing on sustainability for the University home page that also were provided to media and used on the Princeton University Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, and in the Princeton University Bulletin (faculty/staff newspaper), other University publications, and newsletters of academic programs. These pieces ranged from publicizing sustainability events sponsored by University departments that were open to the general public (including the second Sustainability Open House on Nov. 16, 2010, that drew more than 500 members of the campus and local communities); to profiling faculty members who are conducting research in sustainability; to highlighting the sustainability features in stories and media tours for new buildings opening or in design.


Create opportunities for members of the campus and broader community to share knowledge and engage with Princeton sustainability initiatives.


  • In November 2010, the Office of Sustainability partnered with several other offices to produce its second biennial Sustainability Open House for the campus and local community. More than 40 campus and community groups staffed interactive displays and demonstrations to showcase their sustainability efforts to an audience of more than 500 participants.
  • The Offices of Sustainability and the University Architect have partnered with a design firm and graphics firm to design a new interactive sustainability kiosk to be installed in the Frist Campus Center by 2012. Inspired largely by student interest, the kiosk will feature an exhibitor space, a Lucid Design building performance dashboard, a calendar of events, green tour information, video, demo space, unusual recycling opportunities and more.
  • The Office of Sustainability built upon its guided Green Tour launched in 2010, by developing a self-guided tour on the iPrinceton app. During 2011, six guided tours were offered upon request, including during the Ivy Plus Sustainability and She Roars conferences. The online tour is currently available on the iPhone, and will be accessible on Android and Blackberry platforms soon

Strategy: Participate in core higher education leadership groups to share knowledge on successful sustainability strategies.


  • The Office of Sustainability hosted the Ivy Plus Sustainability Committee meeting in spring 2011. Thirteen schools in the consortium attended sessions focused on strategic planning and communications, sustainability as an important fundraising platform, and sustainability initiatives at Princeton.
  • As a member of core higher education leadership groups, Princeton consulted and collaborated with peer institutions on developing and implementing successful sustainability strategies, especially through the Ivy Plus Sustainability Committee, the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium and the New Jersey Higher Education Program in Sustainability; best practices from these collaborations are informing the development of the sustainability field. 

Strategy: Facilitate the Student Environmental Communication Network.

  • Since 2006, the Office of Sustainability has trained 39 students and interns through its Student Environmental Communication Network (SECN). Students have investigated the nuances of what is "green" and learned the research and technical skills needed to communicate them through podcast and video media.
  • The SECN videos from the 2010 production season were featured at the Princeton Public Library's environmental film festival in spring 2011. Films produced during the 2011 production season will be featured in 2012.

What's Next

  • Continue to document educationally valuable initiatives and community actions in sustainability to share with broader audiences.
  • Continue to use SECN to increase the engagement of the undergraduate population with sustainability issues, and seek ways to integrate the program with academic objectives.
  • Encourage various communications offices across campus to further develop stories for their audiences and to leverage their use for wider audiences. 
  • Collect campus-based stories from students, faculty and staff to capture efforts under way at both the personal and departmental levels that have not yet been documented. 
  • Continue to develop a dynamic new sustainability Web presence that will incorporate tools such as databases, metric-gathering instruments and social media. 


For the fourth summer in a row, the Office of Sustainability offered students a chance to learn audio and video production through the exploration of environmental issues in 2011. Two interns, Princeton senior John Votta and Ithaca College student Jessica Santos, filmed and edited multimedia projects with Student Environmental Communications Network (SECN) instructor David Benin (center), a media producer and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication at the University of California-San Diego.


"The SECN summer program was for me an incredibly instructive, fun and personally valuable crash course in every stage of the filmmaking process. I would highly recommend the SECN program to anyone interested in how to convey environmental issues through any medium or to anyone curious about filmmaking. My experiences in the SECN have even inspired me to consider environmental filmmaking as a career."
Chris Hipser, Class of 2011

Frick kiosk

The University's first energy monitoring dashboard went live in the Frick Chemistry Laboratory in April 2011, and a second dashboard was installed in Butler College in summer 2011. The dashboards were developed by Lucid Design Group and show real-time electric, heating and cooling data, as well as long-term electricity patterns for each facility. They also provide information about the buildings' sustainability features, such as Butler's green roof and Frick's high-efficiency fume hoods, and how they promote energy savings.


Frick kiosk

A new interactive kiosk showcasing sustainability initiatives at Princeton will be installed on the 100 level of the Frist Campus Center in 2011-12. As shown here in a model, the kiosk will be a flexible space that can serve many purposes and will include multifunctional display cases; a video screen; demonstration space for rotating exhibits; green tour information; a bulletin board for student groups; and an energy monitoring dashboard that will display energy performance data from various campus buildings.

Sustainability News

The Office of Sustainability began publishing a monthly e-newsletter, titled Sustainability News, in April 2011 and produced three issues for the year.


"At this year's Ivy Plus Sustainability meeting at Princeton, I heard Dr. Eileen Zerba present on her green roof study. It was fascinating and informative, and showed us an approach to using the campus as a laboratory that was different from how we use our very urban campus as a laboratory for green roofs. The campus green tour afterward was also great — it gave me a good overview of recent sustainability developments at Princeton as well as the history."
Nilda Mesa, assistant vice president of environmental stewardship and adjunct professor, Columbia University in the City of New York