Auburn University receives STARS Silver Rating for sustainability achievements

Published: April 06, 2016
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Auburn University has received a STARS Silver Rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. STARS – Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System – measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

The Auburn University Office of Sustainability collaborated with Academic Sustainability Programs to conduct a comprehensive self-assessment throughout 2015, and submitted findings to STARS in January. Representatives from many areas of campus participated in gathering and providing data.

"Auburn has a longstanding commitment to sustainability and a STARS Silver Rating validates Auburn’s efforts so far to fulfill that commitment," said Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability. "Cataloguing our achievements through STARS allows us to look back at what we have accomplished and look forward to what’s next. It is both gratifying and stimulating."

Achievements noted in the findings include:

  • Seventy-four percent of Auburn students use some form of sustainable transportation like Tiger Transit, carpooling, biking or walking to commute to campus;
  • Through wireless monitoring and conservation practices, the university reduced water consumption per square foot by over 40 percent;
  • The recorded number of faculty engaged in current sustainability-related research has almost doubled in the past three years, from 71 to 124;
  • The Introduction to Sustainability course is now part of the core curriculum;
  • An increase in peer-to-peer student educator programs related to sustainability; and a comprehensive landscape master plan with sustainability as a core value was formally adopted.

"We are proud that we have again achieved a STARS Silver Rating for our sustainability accomplishments, which motivate us to accomplish more," said Nanette Chadwick, director of Academic Sustainability Programs. "One of our key academic accomplishments over the past three years has been to include Introduction to Sustainability as a course option in the core curriculum. This has greatly increased student enrollment. Over the same period, we also increased the proportion of other courses with sustainability content in most of the colleges on campus. By now, our program has trained over 80 faculty to add sustainability content into the courses they teach, to better prepare our graduates for their roles as leaders of tomorrow."

STARS provides a common platform for assessing sustainability performance in higher education. Colleges and universities across the United States and in 23 other countries use STARS to conduct thorough and systematic evaluations of sustainability performance in four areas: education and research, operations, engagement, and planning and administration.

"STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts," said Meghan Fay Zahniser, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. "Auburn University has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts."

The program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS Rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

"STARS provides us with a framework of goals to pursue and benchmarks to measure our progress," said Chadwick. "We are confident that our sustainability efforts will grow in impact as a result of our participation in the STARS program."

The report is public and can be found at the STARS website: www.stars.aashe.org.