AASHE Tests its Rating System for Colleges

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has launched its pilot rating system for sustainability in higher education. More than 90 college and university campuses will test the self-assessment tool, called STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System). Over the course of 2008, they will provide feedback to the association. STARS version 1.0 is planned for release in spring 2009.

"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 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 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,
• Enable meaningful comparisons across institutions as well as benchmarking within institutions,
• 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.

"We are excited to use STARS to assess our sustainability performance," said Matt Malten, assistant vice chancellor for campus sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis. "In addition to using it as a guide to establish our performance baseline, we also plan to use STARS as a platform to help us engage and facilitate on-going collaboration for continual improvement on our campus, with our peer institutions across the country, and with our international partners. In short, STARS will help us confirm that we are affecting the necessary rapid global sustainability progress."

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.

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