In past years UVM's Office of Sustainability has participated in external sustainability assessments, including: The Sierra Club "Cool Schools" survey; The Princeton Review "Green College Honor Roll" survey; and The Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) "College Sustainability Report Card" survey. For example, in 2010, UVM received 16th place on Sierra Club "Cool Schools", 93 out of 100 points on the Princeton Review "Green College Honor Roll" - a college has to get 99 to make the honor roll; and an overall A- on the SEI "College Sustainability Report Card."
Although these rating and ranking systems get press coverage and raise interest in sustainability and in the particular institutions, answering hundreds of questions of various sizes and importance can take up tremendous amounts of time and have other inherent problems. In July of 2010, the director of the UVM Office of Sustainability, Gioia Thompson, along with a number of other sustainability directors and coordinators from higher educational institutions sent a letter to several organizations that solicit sustainability surveys. The letter urges the organizations to incorporate transparency, accountability, disclosure of professional credentials of staff, uniform matrices, rejection of financial conflicts of interest in their surveys, and to give an opt-in or opt-out choice. Read the letter here. Since then, several outside surveyors, including The Sierra Club, have agreed to use STARS data, and many universities are now participating once again.
In 2013, UVM is not on the Sierra list, because we did not fill out the survey. We will next year. Given the timing and the size of Office of Sustainability staff, we had to make a choice between completing the Sierra survey and focusing on getting ready for STARS, and could not do both.
President Sullivan decided early in 2013 that the University would participate in STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System developed by AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. STARS has been developed after years of organized conversations among institutions of higher education to assess sustainability in academics, culture, operations, and policy. Completing the assessment of the University's activities using STARS is a time-consuming matter, especially the first time. Once the STARS data are available online, outside organization will be able to mine the STARS data for their own assessments. Sierra has committed to doing this, and we expect this will enable Sierra to rate UVM once again in 2014. We will complete the STARS data collection process by December, 2013.
Check AASHE STARS to see how we are progressing.