Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education: UVM Receives Prestigious STARS Gold Designation
- By Megan Morley Thomas
The University of Vermont has received the prestigious STARS gold rating, the highest designation, from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System is a comprehensive measurement tool designed to advance sustainability in all sectors of higher education. UVM scored well particularly in credits for research, co-curricular education, water use reduction and initiatives to address diversity and affordability.
UVM’s commitment to the environment spans multiple areas and functions of the university, and it was this across-the-board engagement that helped it earn the gold award. The STARS application measured UVM’s environmental practices and programs in education and research; in operations such as dining services, transportation and waste management; and in planning, administration and public engagement. Within the STARS “innovation” section, four innovation points are possible, and UVM scored a full 4.0 for its EcoMachine in the Aiken Center, the Collaboratory at University Heights, the Students-Teaching-Students courses offered through the Environmental Program and the Student Move-Out Program.
In a campus-wide email about the new designation, UVM president Tom Sullivan wrote, “Achieving Gold is a significant accomplishment. We must continue, however, to work toward greater efficiencies and sustainability awareness on our campus. I believe UVM should be a national leader in this area, and I want to support all who are working across campus to address these critical issues. The STARS report has given us an excellent baseline for monitoring UVM’s efforts.”
Sullivan announced in the email that, to continue to build on the STARS assessment, he is appointing a Sustainability Task Force to develop a sustainability plan with goals and objectives for the next three years.
“Higher education has an important role to play in helping society as a whole adopt the sustainable practices we need for a healthy future,” said Gioia Thompson, director of UVM’s Office of Sustainability. “The STARS program not only helps us model these practices, it will help us improve further, since we now have a bank of data to build from.” STARS requires schools to reapply every three years.
STARS is the only system of its kind that involves public reporting of comprehensive information related to a college’s or university’s sustainability performance. STARS provides institutions with a standardized assessment tool to measure their sustainability performance. Unlike other rating or ranking systems, STARS is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine its ratings are transparent and accessible. Because STARS ratings are based on credits earned, the system allows for both internal comparison and comparison with other schools.
STARS is a program of AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE is a member-driven organization with a mission to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation.