Urban Sustainability Living Laboratory Project Ideas 

Do you want to start a sustainability project here at Macalester College?  If you are looking for project ideas, check out the Macalester College Sustainability Plan. The plan is full of strategies and goals for sustainability at Macalester.  In addition, Use this list to spark project ideas and learn which departments may need to be involved in your project.  

Make sure you have thought through your project.  Fill out this Living Laboratory Project Planning Template

Do you need money?  Apply for the Small Project Fund

Specific area of Sustainability in mind? Check out the Data we have on specific initiatives here: 

Biodiversity and Living Systems Project Checklist 

Have an idea? Fill out the Living Laboratory Project Idea Form

Available Data  

Data is available in the latest Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) survey submission

Data and summaries of projects are available in the 2012 Progress Report

Make sure you know about other projects 

Before you begin, please review other existing projects and plans on this topic: 

Consider Speaking to

Potential Projects 

  • Develop a study of bird/building collisions on campus and recommend bird safe guidelines for campus buildings.
  • Develop potential signage for sustainable landscaping projects.
  • Develop a sustainable landscaping tour of campus.
  • Follow up on the recommendations of the Microbirding Class Project
  • Follow up on the recommendations of the Green Roof Class Project
  • Develop recommendations for the MULCH garden. What grows well in urban areas? What kinds of soil do we have? What soil amendments are needed? 
  • Design a plan for the MULCH garden. 
  • Identify native plants on campus, create a map and signage.
  • Write text for existing green roof signs.

Education Project Checklist 

Have an idea? Fill out the Living Laboratory Project Idea Form

Available Data 

Data is available in the latest Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) survey submission

Data and summaries of projects are available in the 2012 Progress Report

Make sure you know about other projects

Consider Speaking to

The Sustainability Office 

Potential Projects 

  • Create hands-on displays and activities for sustainability tour for school groups 
  • Create an interactive map of a Macalester sustainability tour 
  • Develop a field guide to Macalester and the surrounding environment with cultural and environmental points of interest. 
  • Develop signage for storm water projects on campus. 
  • Develop signage for green roofs on campus. 
  • Develop signage for the MULCH garden.
  • Develop signage for existing green roofs. 
  • Develop signage for tours on our Sustainability Plan Goals. 
  • Recommend changes to the digital signage for sustainability. 
  • Follow up on the recommendations from the Language House class projects

Energy Project Checklist 

Fill out the Living Laboratory Project Proposal Form 

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects 

Consider Speaking to

Potential Projects 

  • Research energy efficiency investments on campus - how they compare with endowment returns.
  • Research the effectiveness of the energy star mini-fridge policy in the dorms and recommend actions.
  • Develop an energy reduction outreach plan or event for dorms and/or offices.
  • Research light pollution on campus - impact on surrounding area and create mitigation strategy.
  • Follow up on the recommendations made by Heat Waste in the Dorms

Food Project Checklist  

Fill out a Living Laboratory Project Idea Planning Form 

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects 

Potential Projects  

  • Research reactions to Bon Appetit's Low Carbon Diet Changes and how to increase acceptance.
  • Develop MULCH garden planting recommendations (what plants are suited for climate, ease of care, revenue generation potential) 
  • Study soil in the MULCH garden and recommend soil amendments 
  • Compare Carleton and Macalester's Real Food Challenge data and recommend actions

Transportation Project Checklist 

Fill out a Living Laboratory Project Proposal Form

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects

  • Students in a class analyzed campus airline travel, (Laura Cullenward, Kim DeLanghe, and Mark Stonehill, 2009, “An Institutional Carbon Footprint:  The Assessment of Transportation-Related cCO2 Emissions and Applied Study of Mitigation Policies for Macalester College”, Transportation Geography 488-01, Prof. Laura Smith). Please contact the Sustainability Office for a copy of the paper.
  • League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly University Application (available from the Sustainability Office).

Consider Speaking to 

Potential Projects 

  • Create a bicycling plan for the campus 
  • Compare air travel emissions from Carleton and Macalester 
  • Develop outreach material for carpooling options for staff and analyze the effectiveness of those materials 
  • Develop bicycle infrastructure map for the Sustainability Website 

Waste Project Checklist 

Fill out a Living Laboratory Project Planning Form

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects 

Consider Speaking to

Potential Projects 

  • Research the effectiveness of different communication options on dorm (or office) recycling rates.
  • Research the effectiveness of paper reduction campaigns in the Library and Computer labs.
  • Develop outreach material on composting or recycling for specific dorms, collect data on the effectiveness of these materials 
  • Recommend outreach material for waste reduction for Athletics 

Water Project Checklist 

Fill out a Living Laboratory Project Proposal Form 

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects 

  • Rosie Mate ‘12, as part of her internship with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS) implemented an efficient faucet aerator and commercial kitchen pre-rinse spray valve installation.
  • More information is available in the 2012 Progress Report

Consider Speaking to

Potential Projects 

  • Analyze the effectiveness of stormwater projects on campus.
  • Water usage - how is it used and how can usage be reduced cost-effectively?
  • Research location and history of underground river on campus.
  • Develop signage for stormwater projects 
  • Write a story of water use on campus, detailing where it comes from, what its used for and where it goes 
  • Write a story of urban ecology and how and where Macalester fits into the regional biome. 

Miscellaneous Project Checklist 

Fill out a Living Laboratory Project Proposal Form

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects 

Consider Speaking to

The Sustainability Office 

Potential Projects 

  • Create a GIS map of community sustainability businesses/institutions.
  • Develop a neighborhood green building tour of St. Paul  
  • Investigate alternatives to standard air conditioning for the EcoHouse
  • Research light pollution on campus - impact on surrounding area and create mitigation strategy

Miscellaneous Project Checklist 

Fill out a Living Laboratory Project Proposal Form

Available Data 

Make sure you know about other projects 

Consider Speaking to: 

The Sustainability Office 

Potential Projects 

  • Create a GIS map of community sustainability businesses/institutions.
  • Develop a neighborhood green building tour of St. Paul  
  • Investigate alternatives to standard air conditioning for the EcoHouse
  • Research light pollution on campus - impact on surrounding area and create mitigation strategy.