Now, as in the past, awareness of sustainability begins with education. But now universities and colleges can gain recognition for their efforts towards sustainability through the STARS program. The acronym stands for “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System”. It provides a self-reporting framework that allows for assessment and rating.
So far, more than half of the participating tertiary education organizations say that STARS has instigated further efforts towards sustainability on campuses.
The Latest Gold STARS Award Goes to…
UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) is among the most recent recipients of a gold STARS rating making it one of only 29 universities in the US to achieve the award. A spokeswoman said that the campus has focused on sustainability through optimizing energy and water use and through research and education.
However, although UCSB is celebrating its new sustainability status, it will still have something to strive for: platinum rating is the top STARS honor that can be achieved. USCB is happy with that. It has consistently achieved a higher sustainability score each time it was rated and looks forward to the continuation of the challenge.
“STARS 2.1 is more rigorous than earlier versions and UCSB has been able to achieve higher points each time we have submitted.” said Mo Lovegreen, UCSB’s director of sustainability.
During the California drought, the university worked hard to reduce water consumption, but it will be looking at its rainwater management system next and hopes to use more renewable energy in the future. The university hopes to achieve platinum status by 2020.
Not Just for the Big Achievers
Although competition for the highest STARS rankings is stiff, it’s not just a program for the top achievers. Colleges and universities that are taking their first steps towards on-campus sustainability will also benefit. The program provides guidance, both for those wanting to take sustainability to the next level, and those who are just beginning a drive towards sustainable operations.
By helping institutions to identify the most impactful sustainability strategies, goal-setting becomes possible, and for those who achieve their goals, STARS recognition serves as an additional motivation.
Taking Sustainability Into the Community
By building sustainability awareness and making it an important goal to strive towards, the STARS program allows for the extension of sustainability initiatives into the community at large. As students, faculty and admin staff learn more about sustainability through their participation in STARS, they become more likely to promote it when off-campus.
Students are active participants, and as the leaders of the future, they will take the principles of sustainability with them throughout their careers. The potential benefits of STARS participation are indeed far-reaching.