Washington University in St. Louis has been awarded Gold status accreditation from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), renewing certification at the same level as its last certification in 2018, though on a more rigorous version of the reporting tool.
STARS is a reporting framework developed by AASHE, the leading sustainability professional association for higher education, to benchmark and recognize an institution’s sustainability leadership. Information submitted through STARS also feeds recognition programs like Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges and the Campus Sustainability Index.
The effort to recertify using AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) was led by Cassandra Hage, assistant director of sustainability at WashU. Over a months-long process Hage coordinated numerous requests for data from over 100 colleagues representing myriad departments and schools across the university.
When asked about the process for submission, Hage shared, “It would not have been possible to reach Gold status without the strong support of partners and ongoing activities far beyond the Office of Sustainability. The deep commitments of leadership to social and environmental sustainability is essential, as is embedding sustainability into operations, programming, and research and curriculum, across all schools, departments, and campuses.”
To fully understand the scale and depth that the STARS report achieves, browsing the categories is revealing: Academics (Curriculum & Research); Engagement (both campus and public); Operations (Air & Climate, Buildings, Energy, Food & Dining, Grounds, Purchasing, Transportation, Waste, and Water); Planning & Administration (Coordination & Planning, Diversity & Affordability, Investment & Finance, Wellness and Work); and Innovations & Leadership. WashU received additional recognition in the 2022 Campus Sustainability Index for its top 10 performance in the Diversity & Affordability section.
For well over a decade, WashU has been a national leader in adopting sustainability into institutional operations. In 2009, WashU became the first North American university to ban the sale of bottled water on the Danforth, North, and West campuses. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Sustainability, Phil Valko, has been at the helm of sustainability at WashU since 2011 and shared many of the changes he has seen during his time here:
“The university today—our campuses, our buildings, and our landscapes—looks dramatically different than it did a decade ago, in large part due to our sustainability leadership. The STARS Gold rating is an important third-party recognition of all the progress that we have made and continue to make.”
Looking to the future, the sustainability team at WashU is in the process of renewing the university’s Strategic Plan for Sustainable Operations, an undertaking that dovetails with the Here and Next plan.