UMass Amherst Highlighted in 2020 Sustainable Campus Index

Recognized as a top performer in sustainability research
Clean Energy Corps students review architectural plans as part of their energy audit. Credit: Ben Barnhart/UMass
Clean Energy Corps students review architectural plans as part of their energy audit. Credit: Ben Barnhart/UMass

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst is recognized as a top-performing educational institution in the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI), a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). It received the 7th highest score among large, public, doctoral-granting universities, based on a UMass analysis of the data.

“The institutions and initiatives featured in this year’s SCI showcase the great work that higher education institutions are doing to lead the global sustainability transformation,” states Julian Dautremont, AASHE’s director of programs, in announcing the new report. 

“We are thrilled with the recognition our wide-reaching sustainability efforts are receiving, and we’re committed to raising the bar even higher in the years to come,” says Rob DeConto, a climate scientist and co-director of the university’s School of Earth & Sustainability.

The index lists top performers in 17 sustainability impact areas related to academics, engagement, operations and administration. UMass Amherst was tied for sixth in the sustainability research area, receiving a score of 100%. The average score among participating institutions was 72.7%.

“By researching sustainability issues and refining theories and concepts, higher education institutions can continue to help the world understand sustainability challenges and develop new technologies, strategies and approaches to address those challenges,” the report states.

The report highlights some recent innovative and high-impact sustainability projects and initiatives, including one from the Clean Energy Corps, a program of the UMass Amherst Clean Energy Extension and School of Earth & Sustainability. The corps trains students to work closely with Massachusetts municipalities, institutions and organizations to identify ways to reduce emissions by conducting comprehensive energy audits and retrofitting buildings. 

In the project featured in the AASHE report, three undergraduate and two graduate students conducted a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst. They evaluated clean energy opportunities for energy reductions through system controls, space management, energy efficiency measures and renewable energy generation.

“This is just one example of the highly applied training opportunities available to students at UMass Amherst,” DeConto says. “Living laboratory experiences are a hallmark of our sustainability programs and reflect the vibrant collaborations among the School of Earth and Sustainability, Extension, Physical Plant, Campus Planning and Auxiliary Services.” 

AASHE uses a transparent, self-reporting Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) that allows colleges and universities to measure and track their sustainability performance. The index is based on annual STARS reports submitted this year by 520 colleges and universities in 14 countries, covering 49 U.S. states and eight Canadian provinces.

UMass Amherst continues to receive a STARS Gold rating, with an overall score of 76.93, its highest ever, compared to an overall average score of 58.18 among all institutions and an overall average of 62.05 among doctoral institutions.

“It’s nice to see UMass mentioned in this year’s Sustainable Campus Index because this document highlights specific case studies and stories about our sustainable efforts within our campus community that are truly having an impact,” says Ezra Small, campus sustainability manager. “A good STARS Gold rating is important, but a score alone doesn’t always convey our wonderful stories that are taking place at UMass Amherst and creating a more just and sustainable world.”