AMHERST, Mass. – One national and one international organization recently recognized UMass Amherst sustainability programs for accomplishments and leadership in “green campus” initiatives among higher education institutions.
Bestcolleges.com placed UMass Amherst 37th on its list of top 50 U.S. colleges and universities that have “distinguished themselves as the nation’s greenest schools” by launching highly effective initiatives to reduce their carbon footprints. The Indonesia-based Green Metric Global Survey 2013 also ranked UMass Amherst 37th overall, that is in the top 40 worldwide and in the top five worldwide among colleges in rural settings.
Bestcolleges.com uses the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s four-level Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) to assess institutions on a number of variables. It is a voluntary, self-reporting framework providing a common standard for measuring social, environmental and economic dimensions of a campus’ sustainability efforts. AASHE has more than 800 member institutions in the United States and Canada. Each institution in the top 50 earned a Gold rating from STARS, meaning they had an overall score between 65 and 84. To receive a Gold rating, an academic institution must earn points in four areas:
- Curriculum and research
- Campus and community engagement
- Operations including air and climate quality, dining services, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste and water
- Coordination, planning and governance, diversity, affordability, health, wellbeing, work and investment
The system can add a possible four extra points known as “innovation credits” to schools that introduce green initiatives and programs deemed especially creative and resourceful. UMass Amherst won its first Gold rating from STARS in 2011, earning the right to display a large gold star and plaque at the entrance to the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.
A Bestcolleges.com spokeswoman wrote, “With talk of climate change all around us, the current generation of college students is more aware than ever of the need to care for our planet through sustainability initiatives. Our list gives these students another tool by which to evaluate their choices when it comes to choosing a school that addresses their concerns.”
The Green Metric Global Survey based at Universitas Indonesia (UI) in Depok, West Java, ranks higher ed institutions based on “a broad philosophy that encompasses the three Es: environment, economics and equity,” say the organizers who include engineers, social scientists, architects and other experts. “We hope that the rankings will be useful to university leaders in their efforts to put in place eco-friendly policies and manage behavioral change among the academic community at their respective institutions.”
Criteria include the amount of green space on the campus, electricity consumption, transportation factors, water use, waste management and other factors related to sustainability. “Beyond these indicators, we want to get a picture about how the university is responding to or dealing with the issue of sustainability through policies, actions and communication,” they add.
Each university earns points for its policies and practices for each indicator and the UI group uses a predetermined scale based on points earned for the indicators to determine the total point for each category. For the analysis, they assign a numeric value and weight to each campus’s efforts in six general areas: infrastructure, energy/climate change, waste management, water use, transportation and education. This year, 301 universities from 61 countries took part. The University of Nottingham, U.K. ranked first with a score of 7,521. Northeastern University in Boston came in third with a score of 7,170 while UMass Amherst scored 6,282.