STARS in our Eyes: Documenting WCU Sustainability Efforts
We may be Golden Rams, but West Chester University has a new silver designation under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The silver designation is a result of the Office of Sustainability’s spring 2020 submission of a report of our accomplishments.
AASHE’s STARS program is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Institutions earn points and are rated from bronze to platinum for documenting the work they do to achieve sustainable outcomes across four categories: academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration. There are 63 types of sustainability initiatives in the STARS system in which a university could amass points.
“I’m very happy we were able to document enough points to raise our rating from bronze to silver this year,” said Brad Flamm, director of WCU’s Office of Sustainability. Flamm presented a spring sustainability lecture on documenting the University’s sustainability efforts for the STARS submission. Recordings of this and other presentations are available on the Digital Commons Sustainability Research and Creative Activities site.
Work on the report began in summer 2019 and involved staff, faculty, and students from multiple areas.
The University has much to celebrate. Among the highlights that earned points in the report:
- New learning opportunities such as the Sustainability Pathway Certificate Program; an interdisciplinary sustainability minor; and discipline-specific programs such as the Nutrition Department’s Sustainable Food Systems Management concentration.
- The Brandywine Project for Sustainability Education, through which 93 WCU faculty members have been trained to develop courses that address sustainability and which now includes workshops for students and staff.
- The energy-efficient, low-carbon geo-exchange system, one of the largest such systems on a university campus in North America, which heats and cools nearly half of the buildings on campus.
- Civic and community engagement that includes the campus organic gardens’ contributions to the WCU Resource Pantry; membership in the Climate Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; collaboration with the West Chester Green Team (a coalition of local non-profit environmental organizations); and the thousands of hours our students, faculty, and staff commit to volunteering in Chester County.
“Analyzing our accomplishments for STARS is an important effort for WCU. It helps us document our successes, understand how to improve in the future, and share the news of our good work with colleagues and partners,” Flamm said.
WCU President Christopher Fiorentino recognized campus efforts to implement and document sustainability measures: “West Chester University highlights our commitment to sustainability in our current Strategic Plan, Pathways to Student Success, where it is one of five mutually reinforcing areas of focus.”
Slippery Rock University is the only other state system institution to have submitted a STARS report (February 2019) and earned silver.
Among other regional institutions, Temple University is silver, last reporting STARS data in February 2018, while University of Delaware is bronze, reporting in January 2020.