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UWRF to Participate in Pilot Sustainability Rating System

FEB. 1, 2008--The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is among more than 90 college and university campuses selected to participate in the pilot phase of a rating system for sustainability in higher education developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The self-assessment system, called STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System), will launch on Feb. 4. Participating college and university campuses will test the system over the course of 2008, and provide feedback to AASHE that will inform STARS version 1.0, planned for release in spring 2009.

UWRF faculty and staff who will spearhead the STARS pilot program at UWRF say they excited to be a part of the process. "It will give our campus an opportunity to directly shape how efforts toward campus sustainability are guided and assessed nationwide," says Kelly Cain, director of the UWRF St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development. "Participation will provide a meaningful framework for benchmarking and tracking our own sustainable community development goals, especially since we have the current energy goal of being one of four Wisconsin schools that are 'off the grid' by 2012, as announced by Gov Doyle in 2007."

The 90-plus participating campuses were selected to represent a wide range of institutional types, sizes and geography. They include public and private schools, community colleges and research universities.

STARS organizers say the program is designed to help gauge the progress of colleges and universities toward sustainability in all sectors, from governance and operations to academics and community engagement. The program allows for meaningful comparisons across institutions as well as benchmarking within institutions and will create incentives for continuous improvement toward sustainability, facilitate information sharing about sustainability practices and performance in higher education, and build a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community.

Given the rapid growth of sustainability initiatives at institutions of higher education in North America, measuring and assessing progress toward sustainability goals has become increasingly important. While many institutions have undertaken sustainability assessments and while a variety of assessment tools are available, there is currently no system that translates disparate sustainability indicators into a single metric that enables both institutional benchmarking and easy comparison across a large number of campuses in terms of overall level of achievement.

"The launch of the pilot phase is a major milestone in the development of STARS," said Judy Walton, AASHE's acting executive director. "It has taken nearly two years of hard work and the contributions of hundreds of individuals from every sector of the higher education community to bring us to this point."

The system is similar to the LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) green building rating system. STARS, however, is applied to an entire campus rather than a single building or set of buildings and evaluates social responsibility as well as environmental stewardship.

Campuses may earn credits in three categories: 1) curriculum and research, 2) operations, and 3) administration and finance. Within each category are subsections of credits, ranging from "purchasing" and "buildings" in operations to "investment" and "planning" in administration and finance.

For a list of participating institutions see: . For other information about STARS, including a copy of the Pilot Phase One Guide, see: .


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:47 Central Daylight Time


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