UI was among 105 higher education institutions recognized
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An association of colleges and universities working to create a sustainable future has given the University of Iowa high marks for its campus-wide sustainability achievements, especially in the areas of energy conservation, alternative transportation, and waste reduction.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recently released its 2014 STARS Annual Review, a publication that highlights sustainability innovations and best practices from colleges and universities worldwide.

The UI was among 105 higher education institutions that earned a STARS rating, representing institutions in the United States, Canada, Ecuador, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

More recognition

Eight projects currently awarded LEED status (two platinum, six gold), 4 projects pending LEED certification

UI’s RecycleMania received Iowa Recycling Association Award. May 2014.

APPA’s Effective & Innovative Practices Awards –2005 Biomass Fuel Project, 2010 Energy Hawks, 2012 Energy Control Center.

Tree Campus USA – 5 years in a row since 2009.

2009 Green Power Partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since Jan. 2008.

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS participants pursue credits to achieve a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum rating. Credits are earned through performance indicators and criteria in four categories: academics, engagement, operations and planning and administration.

The UI received a Gold STARS rating during its inaugural year in the program and joined other Big 10 schools that achieved gold, including the Ohio State University, University of Maryland and University of Illinois.

The ratings are good for up to three years.

Liz Christiansen, director of UI’s Office of Sustainability, says the rating system isn’t a competition, but rather a chance to see what sustainability initiatives UI is doing well and those that need improvement. The STARS Annual Review is also an opportunity to see what other colleges and universities are doing and share information.

“It is a framework for improving your sustainability performance,” Christiansen says.

While the UI scored high in the area of operations such as energy conservation, waste reduction and water reduction, Christiansen says the university also did well in the area of planning and administration because “sustainability is a fundamental part of the university’s strategic plan and campus master plan.”

One area of the STARS review where UI could improve, however, is in the number of courses it offers students on the subject of sustainability.

The STARS rating system was among the first topics discussed by the UI’s Sustainability Charter Committee, which was established last year to help build a culture of sustainability on campus and prepare students to address sustainability issues when they leave the university.

Christiansen says the group would use the STARS report to help target areas of improvement.

"We are committed to increasing classroom offerings in the area of sustainability," she says.

Iowa State University in Ames, and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls also earned a Gold STARS rating, which Christiansen says reflects the priority the Regents’ institutions place on sustainability.

“We have active, robust sustainability efforts on our Iowa universities’ campuses,” she says. “We collaborate and talk about successes and challenges and share information on a regular basis.”

AASHE is a virtual organization with staff offices throughout the lower 48 United States. It was founded in 2005 to help coordinate and strengthen campus sustainability efforts at regional and national levels, and to serve as the first North American professional association for those interested in advancing campus sustainability.