The Gold Standard
UMass Amherst recognized for sustainability initiatives
How green is UMass Amherst? The campus ranks among the top ten research universities in the country in its commitment to innovation and leadership in sustainability, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). That organization gave UMass Amherst a gold rating for accomplishments in areas such as energy and water conservation, transportation, creating a sustainable permaculture garden and composting dining hall food waste.
“Our gold rating reflects the commitment the university has made over the last five years to create a truly green campus,” says Ezra Small, campus sustainability manager. “We are seeing more opportunities for students in the curriculum and in extra-curricular activities and we are seeing advancements in greening our operations.”
UMass Amherst scored a 66 out of the possible 104 points and is one of just 16 U.S. universities to receive the gold rating. The highest category is platinum, which requires a score of 85 or better. None of the participating colleges and universities received platinum.
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) program was launched in 2006 and is a voluntary, self-reporting framework that provides a common standard for measuring social, environmental, and economic dimensions of a campus’s sustainability efforts. It is a rigorous and far-ranging assessment of all sustainability-related campus initiatives and includes more than 50 indicators.
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 percent for education and research, 47 percent for operations and 74. 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.
“The challenge moving forward will be continuing to lower our carbon footprint,” says Small. “The STARS program will help us achieve our goals by benchmarking our efforts and providing a network of other colleges and universities that we can learn from and compare our efforts to.”