Auburn University receives STARS Silver Rating, highlights year of sustainability achievements

Published: April 23, 2019
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On Earth Day 2019, Auburn University is celebrating the achievement of receiving 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 2018, and submitted findings to STARS in January.

Along with this achievement, Auburn has been recognized in The Princeton Review's 2019 Guide to 399 Green Colleges, and the university recently joined the U.S. chapter of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

“Sustainability is an embedded aspect of the Auburn University brand, and the principles and practices of sustainability act in service to our land-grant mission,” said Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability. “Auburn sets the standard for sustainability performance in higher education in the State of Alabama, and nationally Auburn is recognized by our peers for our commitments and accomplishments. The STARS assessment tool is an invaluable resource for measuring our successes and progress, and for revealing opportunities for important next steps.

The Office of Sustainability is thrilled that the 2019-2024 Auburn University Strategic Plan states in one of the opening paragraphs, ‘We are not afraid of change; we will lead it. We are not afraid of the future; we will shape it.’ Sustainability initiatives on campus will contribute to fulfilling these aspirational commitments, and our recent STARS performance assessment helps us know where to focus our efforts.”

Sustainable achievements throughout the last year include:

"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."

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.

"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 has been to include Introduction to Sustainability as a course option in the core curriculum. This has greatly increased student enrollment, leading us to hire an instructor devoted full-time to teaching our students about core sustainability issues, which is a first for Auburn. We also have increased the proportion of elective courses with related sustainability content in most of the colleges on campus. By now, our program has trained over 100 faculty to add sustainability content into their courses, to better prepare our graduates for their roles as leaders of tomorrow."

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

The STARS report is public and can be found online: stars.aashe.org.

The Office of Sustainability’s Spirit of Sustainability Awards will be recognized today from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. at the ALFA Pavilion at Ag Heritage Park.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.