St. Lawrence University earns recognition for sustainability efforts

Thursday, October 3, 2013

After completing a detailed campus report measuring academic and administrative practices on campus, St. Lawrence University has earned national recognition for its achievements in several areas of sustainability.

The University received a rating of “silver” from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education based on its score in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

“Achieving a silver rating is a significant accomplishment for the entire campus and something we can build on as a part of our collective commitment to sustainability,” said St. Lawrence Sustainability Coordinator Louise E. Gava. “The report gives us a clear picture of the areas where we’re strong and the areas where we need to focus more attention.”

STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure and compare their sustainability performance across a number of areas using a common set of measurements and data. Various publications and other groups use the information to list and rank the sustainability efforts of participating institutions.

“This assessment goes above and beyond simply our environmental performance,” Gava said. “It takes into account several other areas of sustainability, such as diversity, access, and affordability, an area of the assessment where we obtained full credit.”

St. Lawrence earned significant points for making environmental literacy a component of the University’s curriculum. Courses that have been approved for environmental literacy must have learning goals in which students demonstrate an understanding of the consequences of human activities on natural systems; an awareness of the cultural, economic and political forces that affect environmental policies; and, an understanding of natural systems and the impacts they can have on the environment, human life, health and welfare. The Sustainability and Adirondack semesters also boosted St. Lawrence’s rating.

In addition to academic achievements, administrative efforts in information technology and the grounds department’s work surrounding sustainable landscaping and water management also had a significant positive impact. The University scored strongly for its practices in computer purchasing, limited printing, water consumption, and its bicycle-sharing program. Gava said the campus rallied to gather the information needed to complete the STARS report under tight deadlines.

“This is a real community-building tool,” she said. “While it is a point of honor to achieve a silver rating, simply completing the report is something we should be proud of. In gathering the data, individuals and departments on campus really got involved in the process. They saw the importance of us completing this report. The community interest in what we were currently doing and what we can do to improve, that’s what’s exciting.”

To view the full STARS report for St. Lawrence, visit stars.aashe.org/institutions/st-lawrence-university-ny/report/2013-08-28.

To learn more about sustainability efforts at St. Lawrence University, visit www.stlawu.edu/green.

About St. Lawrence University:

St. Lawrence University is a private, independent liberal arts institution of about 2,400 students. The educational opportunities at St. Lawrence inspire students and prepare them to be critical and creative thinkers, to find a compass for their lives and careers, and to pursue knowledge and understanding for the benefit of themselves, humanity and the planet. Through its focus on active engagement with ideas in and beyond the classroom, a St. Lawrence education leads students to make connections that transform lives and communities, from the local to the global.