Mount Union College Pilots Campus Sustainability Rating System

May 25, 2010

Mount Union College has been selected to participate in the pilot of the sustainability self-assessment tool STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System), newly-launched by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The 90-plus participating campuses were selected to represent a wide range of institutional types, sizes and geography. They include public and private schools, community colleges and research universities. Over the course of 2008 the selected institutions will provide feedback to AASHE and inform STARS version 1.0, planned for release in spring 2009.

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada working to create a sustainable future. It was founded in 2006 with a mission to promote sustainability in all sectors of higher education - from governance and operations to curriculum and outreach - through education, communication, research and professional development. AASHE defines sustainability in an inclusive way, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods and a better world for all generations.

 “The launch of the pilot phase is a major milestone in the development of STARS,” said Judy Walton, AASHE’s acting executive director. “It has taken nearly two years of hard work and the contributions of hundreds of individuals from every sector of the higher education community to bring us to this point.”

STARS is designed to:
•    Help gauge the progress of colleges and universities toward sustainability in all sectors, from governance and operations to academics and community engagement.
•    Enable meaningful comparisons across institutions as well as benchmarking within institutions.
•    Create incentives for continuous improvement toward sustainability.
•    Facilitate information sharing about sustainability practices and performance in higher education
•    Build a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community.

Given the rapid growth of sustainability initiatives at institutions of higher education in North America, measuring and assessing progress toward sustainability goals has become increasingly important. While many institutions have undertaken sustainability assessments and while a variety of assessment tools are available, there is currently no system that translates disparate sustainability indicators into a single metric that enables both institutional benchmarking and easy comparison across a large number of campuses in terms of overall level of achievement.

“We are excited to use STARS to assess our sustainability performance,” said Matt Malten, assistant vice chancellor for campus sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis. “In addition to using it as a guide to establish our performance baseline, we also plan to use STARS as a platform to help us engage and facilitate on-going collaboration for continual improvement on our campus, with our peer institutions across the country, and with our international partners. In short, STARS will help us confirm that we are affecting the necessary rapid global sustainability progress.”

The system is similar to the LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) green building rating system. STARS, however, is applied to an entire campus rather than a single building or set of buildings and evaluates social responsibility as well as environmental stewardship.

Using STARS, campuses may earn credits in three categories – 1) Curriculum and Research, 2) Operations, and 3) Administration and Finance. Within each category are subsections of credits, ranging from “purchasing” and “buildings” in Operations to “investment” and “planning” in Administration and Finance.

For information about STARS, including a copy of the Pilot Phase One Guide, visit www.aashe.org/stars.
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