Daily Sun: University Receives Second Gold Sustainability Rating

The University was awarded its second gold Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System score, designating it one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation...

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Cornell University is proud to maintain the AASHE STARS Gold rating for our campus' sustainability performance.

Cornell University is proud to maintain the AASHE STARS Gold rating for our campus' sustainability performance.

By Ashley Chu via The Cornell Daily Sun 3/21/13

The University was awarded its second gold Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System score — a title designating it one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation — March 8.

STARS is a voluntary, self-reporting system that measures the sustainability performance of colleges and universities.

Dan Roth, associate director for campus sustainability, said the rating is calculated using the institution’s assessment in three categories: Education and Research, Operations and Planning and Administration and Engagement.

The University’s score rose since last year’s STARS assessment, according to Roth.

Careen Arsenault, sustainability administrator for the Campus Sustainability Office, emphasized that the rating is intended to help spread information about sustainability at different colleges.

“STARS is considered to be a rating and not a ranking, focused on sharing sustainability performance information among other colleges, universities and with the general public,” Arsenault said.

One factor that contributed to the increase in the University’s points within the education and research category was the official implementation of the EcoRep Program this year, according to Arsenault. The program appoints student “EcoReps” who educate their peers on ways to live more sustainably through information sessions and other programming, according to EcoRep’s website.

Since 2010, the University has also reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent in a continued effort to become climate neutral by 2050, according to Arsenault.

The University has also increased participation in employee sustainability education programs and bolstered student involvement in community service, Arsenault said.

Kyu-Jung Whang, vice president of Facility Services, said the STARS rating exemplified Cornell’s dedication to sustainability.

“I think [the gold rating] says a lot about the level of commitment that Cornell has towards sustainability given these tough economic times,” Whang said. “A lot of things have been put on hold, but we’ve still been able to attain a higher score because of the amount of energy conservation that we’ve been doing on campus.”

Representatives of the Campus Sustainability Office said they plan to improve the school’s STARS rating in the future as well.

“We will continue to make improvements in water and energy conservation efforts across campus, green operations and maintenance of our buildings, increased educational opportunities and research efforts and engagement of our campus community in sustainable behaviors,” Roth said.

Over the past two years, the STARS initiative has rated 243 institutions. Of these institutions, none have received the platinum rating — the highest possible rating — and only 45 have achieved the gold rating. The rest have attained silver, bronze or reporter ratings, according to STARS’ website.

“The next level that Cornell is striving for is platinum, where a minimum score of 85 [points] is required,” Roth said.

Roth and Whang said they hope the University will eventually achieve a Platinum rating.

“We are still striving for platinum, and we will continue to do everything we can do to be one of the first schools to get to platinum,” Whang said. “We still have a ways to go, and the gap is still relatively wide, so we will have to work really hard to get to platinum.”

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