Wesleyan Earns Silver Rating for 2016 Sustainability Performance

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (STARS) recently awarded Wesleyan with a Silver rating for its 2016 sustainability performance.

Wesleyan completed its first STARS report in 2013 and earned a Silver rating with a score of 53.06. Over the past three years, Wesleyan developed a Sustainability Action Plan to address many of the areas of improvement found in the 2013 report, and has increased its score to 58.11. Sixty-five points are needed to obtain the Gold rating, and 85 points are needed to obtain the Platinum rating.

Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainability began in the 1980s with the creation of a recycling program. This commitment expanded over the years, explained Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst, to include addressing climate change, waste diversion, energy reduction, water conservation, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, promoting sustainability in co-curricular activities, and changing purchasing, building construction and grounds practices.

“Wesleyan began tracking its carbon footprint in 2007 and we’re continuously working to make significant progress toward a more sustainable future and meet our 2050 carbon neutrality target,” Kleindienst said.

STARS, which measures both qualitative and quantitative information on a number of sustainability metrics for colleges and universities, evaluates sustainability efforts in four categories: academics, engagement, operations and planning and administration.

The academics category evaluates sustainability education efforts in the classroom and via research. Wesleyan received an overall score of 58 percent in this category, earning 33 points of 58. Wesleyan performed strongly in the research and curriculum subcategory. New in 2016, Wesleyan received full points for offering incentives for developing sustainability courses through the pilot Sustainability Across the Curriculum Program and for using the campus as a learning laboratory in a variety of classes.

Wesleyan students, staff and faculty are working towards a 2050 carbon neutrality target.

The engagement category evaluates sustainability engagement efforts outside the classroom. Wesleyan received an overall score of 57 percent in this category, earning 23 of 41 points. In an improvement from 2013, Wesleyan received partial points for having a student sustainability educators program, Eco Facilitators. Wesleyan earned full credit for its sustainability partnerships with the community and other campuses, and for being a member of the Worker Rights Consortium.

The operations category evaluates university operations and maintenance, much of which falls under the auspices of the Facilities Department. Wesleyan received a 31 percent score in this category, earning 39 of 216 points for its sustainable actions dealing with buildings, air and climate, energy, food and dining, grounds, transportation, waste, water and purchasing. Wesleyan performed above average in the purchasing area at 77 percent, water at 71 percent and transportation at 60 percent. Wesleyan received full points for inventorying air emissions and having an anti-idling policy. Wesleyan received 76 percent of possible energy consumption points for reducing its per square foot building energy consumption levels about 34 percent over the past eight years. Wesleyan received full points for having a variety of food systems programs and waste reduction programs (including reusable dinnerware, composting programs and food donation). Wesleyan also earned full credit for purchasing only EPEAT Gold certified computers, supporting sustainable transportation, and for its hazardous waste management, campus water usage and rainwater management.

The planning and administration category evaluates the university’s efforts with coordination and planning, diversity and affordability, investment and finance, and well-being and work. Wesleyan received an overall score of 67 percent earning 21 of 32 points. Wesleyan’s efforts in investment and finance went up 20 percent since 2013, and well-being and work went up 16 percent.

Read the full STARS report online here.

Of the 811 institutions schools that have submitted STARS reports, 0.3 percent received a Platinum rating, 34.1 percent received a Gold rating, 50.9 percent received a Silver rating, 9.9 percent received a Bronze rating, and 4.8 percent submitted reports for reporter status.

Wesleyan’s 2013 and 2016 STARS reports have revealed many aspects of campus sustainability that had been difficult to measure and track in the past, Kleindienst noted. Between 2013 and 2016, Wesleyan saw significant improvements in six areas (curriculum, air and climate, energy, coordination and planning, investment and finance, and well-being and work) and some setbacks in four areas (campus engagement, public engagement, food and dining and water usage).

“Wesleyan’s overall score increase of five points indicates that progress is being made across the board,” Kleindienst said. “We rely on all faculty, students and staff to help make Wesleyan a more sustainable campus. With this collaboration, we can go for gold in 2019!”