When budgets are limited and staff time is tight,effectively tracking and reporting on sustainability projects can be challenging. As of late April, about 135 institutions had begun using the new Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) to streamline sustainability work, increase coordination, keep information in order, and allow leaders to assess progress.
Created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), a supporting organization for the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, STARS is a self-reporting tool. “We’ve tried to make it so that if you are participating in the Climate Commitment, the same data fits into STARS,” says Paul Rowland, AASHE’s executive director.
Rowland says the framework has served to increase collaboration between operations and academic departments. “We hoped it would facilitate conversations across campus, so people who hadn’t been talking about sustainability would start doing so,” he adds.
Chris O’Brien, director of sustainability at American University (D.C.), confirms that this is happening at his school, as well. “STARS is the only tool I have found that integrates academics with operations and administration, providing a comprehensive framework for tracking and assessing campus sustainability. I use the handbook almost every day to plan and track my sustainability programs.”