UMass Amherst Recognized for Campus Sustainability Efforts

AMHERST, Mass. - In recognition of its campus sustainability accomplishments in areas such as energy and water conservation, transportation, creating a sustainable permaculture garden and composting dining hall food waste, the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently received a gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

UMass Amherst scored a 66.49 out of the possible 104 points to earn its gold rating. The highest category is platinum, which requires a score of 85 or better. AASHE reports that with just over 100 colleges and universities participating as of this month, none received platinum, 22 received gold, 55 received silver and 21 received bronze. Six institutions submitted data in "reporter" mode, making it public while not seeking an overall score. The rating is good for three years.

AASHE says its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) program, launched in 2006, is not intended to be a rating or ranking tool, but instead 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.

To prepare each rating, the online sustainability evaluation tool asks operations managers and others involved in "green" campus efforts to list accomplishments in three categories: education/research, operations, and planning/administration/engagement. It also awards extra "innovation points" for special projects.

UMass Amherst scored 66.15 percent for education and research, 47.05 percent for operations and 74.29 percent for planning/administration/engagement. In addition, the campus received four innovation credits for its Franklin Dining Hall permaculture garden, its Green Building Guidelines, the Center for Agriculture’s photovoltaic solar power arrays and for biochar initiatives.

AASHE organizers say the program is needed because "you can only manage what you can measure." It provides a venue for colleges and university campuses to share their best practices, learn from other institutions and document improvements over time, they add. The association expects more than 260 institutions from the U.S. and Canada to participate in STARS over the coming year by submitting reports online.