CSU, Chico News

CSU, Chico to Help Pilot Sustainability Rating System for Higher Education

Date: 02-06-2008

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico is among 91 colleges and universities in North America that have been selected to participate in the pilot phase of a rating system for sustainability in higher education.

The program was 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), officially begins this week.

CSU, Chico and other participating campuses will test the system over the course of 2008, and provide feedback to AASHE so that STARS can be widely released in the spring of 2009.

“The AASHE STARS project will give Chico State an inside look at this national sustainability rating system, and provide insight as to how Chico is doing when it comes to overall campus sustainability,” said Jillian Buckholtz, CSU, Chico sustainability coordinator. “This is an exciting time in higher education, as Chico and other campuses lead the way in sustainability efforts.”

The participating campuses were selected to represent a wide range of institutional types, sizes and geography. Other campuses include University of Texas, Austin, UC San Diego, New York University, Arizona State, Williams College, Washington University and the University of Colorado, Boulder. The other CSU campus participating besides CSU, Chico is CSU, Sacramento.

The goals of STARS are to gauge progress toward sustainability in all campus areas, enable meaningful comparisons across institutions, create incentives for continuous improvement, and facilitate the sharing of information about sustainability practices.

The STARS system is similar to the LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) green building rating system, where construction projects receive points for energy efficiency, sustainable materials selection, indoor environmental quality and other considerations. CSU, Chico has three current construction projects heading toward LEED certification. 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 STARS 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.

CSU, Chico has received a number of recent honors for its leadership role in sustainability and environmental awareness and education. In 2007, the University was awarded the Grand Prize by the National Wildlife Federation for efforts to reduce global warming, and was ranked #8 on a list of top green colleges and universities by Grist, a Web environmental news and comment site. In addition, CSU, Chico biologist Jeff Price was one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with former Vice President Al Gore.