After months of long meetings, countless conversations, and seemingly insurmountable metrics, the grading is finally complete: Sewanee’s Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability announces that the university has achieved the certification of AASHE STARS Silver, joining a small group of liberal arts colleges that have attained that rating.
What is AASHE STARS?
AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, is an international nonprofit aimed at promoting and enhancing institutional sustainability at colleges and universities. AASHE has a self-evaluation assessment known as STARS, or the Sustainability Tracking and Rating System. STARS is an extensive evaluation system running the gamut of sustainability issues from energy conservation and recycling to human resources and academic integration. The system has five tiers: Reporting, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and the elusive Platinum, which no institution has yet achieved.
What does it mean to have achieved AASHE Silver?
This puts Sewanee in an elite group of schools with regard to sustainability. The vast majority of the Silver and Gold rated institutions are large public institutions. The group of Silver-rated liberal arts colleges is quite small, including Bard College, Berea College, Colby College, Elon University, Furman University, and Williams College. Colleges with Gold ratings include only Dickinson College, Green Mountain College, Ithaca College, Middlebury College, Oberlin College, Pomona College, and the University of Puget Sound.
The rating system has three main categories: operations; education and research; and planning, administration and engagement. Sewanee particularly excelled in the last category, getting a perfect score in coordination and planning. The university also scored well in research and curriculum engagement. The full report is available on AASHE’s website.
Although the university has only just reached this significant milestone, Sewanee has already set a goal of achieving STARS Gold by 2015, as outlined in the Sustainability Master Plan.