The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recently recognized Wesleyan University for completing the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) reporting process and earning a STARS Silver rating.
STARS measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.
“We primarily complete the STARS evaluation to have an objective, third-party view of ways that Wesleyan could be more sustainable,” Kleindienst said. “It is helpful to see how we compare to other institutions as well, and useful to be able to learn best practices from other colleges and universities.”
According to Wesleyan’s STARS report card, the University scored 61 of 100 points for its sustainability efforts in 2019. Wesleyan also received Silver ratings in 2013 and 2016.
“We’ve improved each time, and we’re just five points shy of the Gold rating,” said Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst. “We’ve learned a lot from this evaluation and have made changes internally that should improve our score the next time in 2022.”
Institutions are graded on academics (curriculum and research); engagement (campus engagement and public engagement); operations (air and climate, buildings, energy, food and dining, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste, and water); planning and administration (coordination and planning, diversity and affordability, investment and finance, well-being and work); and innovation and leadership.
Wesleyan scored highest in the areas of engagement, academics, and planning and administration, and lowest in the areas of buildings, energy, grounds, and investments and finance.
“We have made structural changes and commitments to address these shortcomings,” Kleindienst said.
Recently, Wesleyan created a building sustainability policy that requires the following of certain environmental standards; a carbon neutrality master plan; and a commitment to divest from fossil fuels by 2030.
“Wesleyan remains committed to carbon neutrality, but now is well on its way to developing a roadmap to get there,” Kleindienst said.
The Sustainability Office also is working on the next iteration of its Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), which will be released in late 2020 or early 2021 and is expected to cover the areas of carbon, curriculum, and culture. Due to this spring’s campus shutdown, workshops to develop the SAP have been postponed to Fall 2020.
With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Wesleyan has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver rating and is to be congratulated for its efforts.”