In 2014, UNH received its second gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) program under STARS 2.0. UNH received its first gold rating in 2011 and was one of just 22 campuses in North America to do so.
STARS is the only program of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Unlike other rating or ranking systems, STARS is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. AASHE developed STARS with broad participation from the higher education community, including UNH, which piloted the program.
“Our STARS gold rating is reflective of the breadth and depth of UNH’s commitment to being a sustainable learning community,” said Tom Kelly, UNH’s chief sustainability officer and founding director of its endowed sustainability program, the UNH Sustainability Institute, in 2011. “Piloting and then becoming a charter participant in STARS is one way UNH is using its history and experience in sustainability in collaboration with other higher education institutions to move sustainability forward.”
UNH received credit in STARS for its many sustainability achievements, including:
- A wide range of sustainability academic programs and courses, such as the dual major in EcoGastronomy
- Sustainability internships, study abroad, student organizations, and other co-curricular sustainability learning for students
- A comprehensive diversity and inclusive excellence strategic plan, office, and faculty, staff and student engagement and programming.
- A wide variety of sustainability outreach communications on and off campus, including speakers and the website www.sustainableunh.unh.edu.
- Operational best practices including a climate action plan, local and regional food purchasing, a landfill gas-to-energy project and revolving energy efficiency fund, alternative fueled transit and campus vehicles, sustainable purchasing, green cleaning, green IT, and more.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” says AASHE executive director Paul Rowland. “UNH has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS gold rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”
STARS participants report achievements in three overall areas: 1) education & research, 2) operations, and 3) planning, administration and engagement. To date, 286 campuses have registered for STARS, and ratings range through bronze, silver, gold, and platinum (not yet achieved by any institution). Because STARS is based on credits earned for specific actions, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions. More information is at www.stars.aashe.org.
Chosen to be one of 60 STARS pilot campuses in 2008, UNH become a charter participant in 2009 and is also in the leadership circle member of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Home to the oldest endowed sustainability program in U.S. higher education, the UNH Sustainability Academy, UNH is an award-winning leader in integrating sustainability across curriculum, operations, research and engagement. Learn more at www.sustainableunh.unh.edu.
Why UNH participates in STARS
UNH signed on to a Charter Participant in STARS 1.0 in order to:
- Help further refine STARS development.
- Collaborate with members of the sustainability in higher education community
- Be transparent about campus sustainability efforts.
- Use the data and information collected to help build the next phase of susatinability on campus and to continue to expand UNH's role as a model sustainable learning community.
UNH as a STARS Pilot Campus
- In early 2008, UNH Durham was one of 90 college and university campuses selected to participate in the piloting of STARS. UNH’s chief sustainability officer was a member of the technical advisory committee helping AASHE develop STARS.
- Lead by UNHSA in partnership with Institutional Research and Assessment, UNH piloted STARS throughout 2008 by working with offices and departments across campus to collect as much of the data called for as possible. Along with the data, feedback from UNH offices and departments on the categories and credits in STARS were submitted to AASHE in January 2009.
What is STARS?
- The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS®) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for North American colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability.
- STARS was developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) with broad participation from the higher education community -- including UNH and UNH's Chief Sustainability Officer, Tom Kelly -- and has been been in development since 2007.
- STARS 1.0, which launched on January 19, 2010, after a three-year development process, is the first version of STARS in which participants can earn a rating. STARS scores range from Reporter to Platinum.
- STARS collects data and information in three overarching categories of campus activities:
- Education & Research. These credits assess the presence of sustainability in the classroom, in undergraduate and graduate programs, and in research conducted by faculty, staff and students. This category also measures sustainability in co-curricular activities such as sustainability in new student orientation, publications, outreach, etc. “Tier two” credits document sustainability in student groups, residential experiences, campus events, and more.
- Operations. These credits assess the sustainability of how a campus is run, from transportation to buildings to food served in dining halls. Additional credits cover waste management, water use, purchasing policies, and more.
- Planning, Administration, and Engagement. These credits assess how sustainability is integrated through campus policies, including campus master plans, human resources, endowment management, public engagement, and more.
- Innovation. Institutions can report up to four achievements or activities under the Innovation category that are otherwise not covered by the three other credit categories.
- UNHSA's associate director is a STARS Technical Advisor.