UCR’s Sustainability Efforts Earn Silver STARS Rating

Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's survey evaluates campus' curriculum and research, operations, diversity and planning

campus beauty shot

UC Riverside received a silver medal from the Sustainable Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) in recognition of the campus' sustainability efforts.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — For the first time, the Sustainable Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) has given a “Silver” rating to the University of California, Riverside in recognition of the campus’ sustainability efforts, including curriculum and research, operations, diversity and planning.

STARS is a voluntary benchmarking tool created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) specifically for colleges and universities. It is designed to build a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community by providing a framework for understanding sustainability in all sectors of higher education, creating a common set of measurements that can enable meaningful comparisons over time, create incentives for continual improvement toward sustainability and facility sharing about higher education practices and performance.

Compiling the information for the report took eight months and involved dozens of staff, faculty and students. The data is used by The Princeton Review and Sierra Magazine to compile their annual “green” issues.

“This is not just a question of whether we are building green buildings, have recycling or renewable energy. It is much more than that.” UC Riverside Director of Sustainability John Cook said. “It’s a comprehensive review of everything regarding sustainability at UCR, and it gives us a way of looking at the campus in a holistic sense.”

UCR is one of six UC schools to participate in the survey. UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and UC San Diego earned gold rankings, while UCLA and UC Merced joined UCR in the silver category.

Cook said that the biggest challenge during the eight-month process was gathering information about all the courses offered on campus that teach or are related to sustainability.

“You can’t just go to the course catalog and look for sustainability in the title. We had to come up with a common definition of what sustainability is, then contact all the department chairs to ask if the courses met that criteria,” Cook said. “Environmental engineering has a sustainability component, Gender studies have classes that deal with social inequality and the environmental impacts of that. Those are sustainability classes. School of Medicine is looking at how being poor and living in certain areas impacts the cost of health care. That is social, economic and environmental that makes up the triple bottom line of sustainability.”

Cook cited a Princeton Review study that showed that 62% of respondents said that “having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school.”

“It’s an attractor. There are potential students who are looking to see how you did on this survey,” Cook said, adding that the over the next two years the university will be adding a bachelor of science degree in sustainability in women’s studies and a master’s degree in sustainability through the new School of Public Policy.

UCR will resubmit its information in 2015 with an eye towards earning Gold status. Planned improvements to campus sustainability efforts include continuing to improve campus procurement, creating an air quality plan, looking again at curriculum and research, and even possibly bringing back a campus farmer’s market. But don’t think that these changes are just being made for the sake of a ranking.

“We are doing it because it’s the right thing to do, it’s the necessary thing to do,” Cook said. “We are no longer talking about becoming sustainable. We are now talking about what we have learned, how we can grow, adapt and expand what we have created.”

 

Archived under: Inside UCR, Politics/Society, , , , , , , , ,

Top of Page