Post contributed by Shelby Hall, Office of Sustainability Intern
This spring, Auburn will begin reassessing the campus to renew its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System (STARS) rating. STARS is a self-reporting assessment used by universities and colleges to measure sustainability progress on campus. The program was developed by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to empower leaders in higher education to take charge in the ongoing sustainability transformation. STARS also helps to build a network for sharing information about sustainability in higher education, and provides incentive to improve sustainability initiatives and build community on campus.
Economy, environment, and society are considered to be interconnected components of sustainability, with each aspect depending on the others. AASHE defines sustainability to encompass human and ecological health, social justice, secure economy and a better world for generations to come. The goal of STARS is to convert these broad ideals into measurable objectives that can be used to monitor innovation and progress across college campuses.
There are four major STARS categories, which engage with all aspects of higher education: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning and Administration. Schools pursue credits to earn points in each category, along with optional Innovation and Leadership points, to be awarded a STARS rating.
Academics considers curriculum and research. Engagement involves both the campus and the public. Operations is a wide view of many different aspects of campus, such as air and climate, buildings, energy, dining, water, waste and transportation. Planning and Administration takes a look at diversity, affordability, wellbeing, investment and finance, and coordination and planning. The optional category gives insight to the university’s innovation and exemplary practices.
There are 5 different ratings that can be awarded to participating schools: Reporter, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Three schools have recently obtained the highest honors, a STARS Platinum rating. This is an incredible milestone that gives hope to the progress of STARS participants.
Auburn last completed a STARS certification in January 2016, earning a silver rating. As Auburn begins a comprehensive assessment of sustainability practices on campus, the goal is to achieve a gold rating. Over the next year, data will be collected in order to submit a new assessment. We are excited to have the opportunity to renew our commitment to sustainability here on campus, as well as measure the progress that has been made in recent years.