STARS Gold Recognition
In March 2017, The University of Vermont received its second Gold rating from STARS version 2.1, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System for higher education. The university’s score of 70.87 placed it among the top 12 percent of all rated institutions. Read the news release here. The University of Vermont first registered for STARS in 2013 and submitted data publicly in March 2014. The University received a Gold rating under STARS version 1.2. Both full reports from 2014 and 2017 can be found on the AASHE STARS website.
What is STARS?
The Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (referred to as AASHE STARS), is a voluntary, internal rating framework from Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the premier national organization promoting sustainability at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. STARS is conceptually similar to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Environment and Energy Design rating system (LEED) for green buildings, with a checklist and defined parameters. STARS differs from other "green" surveys in that it is much more comprehensive and includes in the definition of "sustainability" not only environmental considerations, but also economic and social dimensions. The major STARS categories under version 2.1 are: Academics; Campus Engagement; Operations; and Planning and Administration. Points are also available for Innovation.
The Office of Sustainability has used STARS as a framework to track progress related to best practices in sustainability in operations and policy since 2010, when the Student Government Association (SGA) passed a resolution in support of UVM participation in STARS.
During the spring 2010 semester, the UVM Office of Sustainability researched and assembled STARS documentation in collaboration with ENVS 195 (Campus Sustainability - now ENVS 187) and CDAE 295 (Sustainable Development Policy). We worked with students to complete several of the STARS categories and analyze UVM's performance internally as well as in relation to peer institutions, business and sustainable development frameworks, and other international standards. This analysis allowed us at UVM to track our institution's progress, assess its performance over time, and compare with other institutions.
Completing an internal pilot of STARS gave us an estimate of how much effort and collaboration is involved in participating in the program. With our current resources and participation of the ENVS 187 course the Office of Sustainability can continue to track progress using this framework. STARS also can help identify areas for improvement at UVM and compare UVM's progress in subsequent years in order to see if improvement has been made. Our office communicates regularly with other institutions about this topic through the Vermont Campus Sustainability Network and national listservs and conferences.