UW-Stout recently began participating in a new program to encourage sustainability in all aspects of higher education.
The program, called the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System — STARS — is administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
To date, nearly 225 higher education institutions have registered as STARS participants, including UW System schools Green Bay, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, River Falls and Stevens Point.
UW-Stout is gathering campus data for STARS from faculty and instructional staff to determine how sustainability is being incorporated into curriculum and research.
“We're also talking to staff in many areas of university operations, such as dining, energy use, transportation, water and waste management to see what initiatives are being employed on campus,” said Sarah Rykal, UW-Stout sustainability coordinator.
“Once we can benchmark our current level of campus sustainability, we'll be able to see areas where we can improve. And we plan to conduct this analysis every other year, to track our improvements,” Rykal said.
Rykal said the program’s transparency is “really allowing us to see where our campus is at with regard to sustainability and how we can become better. We've already identified lots of ongoing sustainability efforts, from our Bikeshare program to our compostable to-go dinnerware, to the many courses being taught with a sustainability emphasis. It’s going to be really encouraging to see UW-Stout's progress so far,” Rykal said.
New programs like UW-Stout's campuswide composting and recycling program and the Just Enough Energy Conservation campaign, both implemented in January, will contribute to the advancement of sustainability on campus. The composting and recycling program now allows all students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors to divert waste from landfills by recycling and composting in all buildings on campus. And the Just Enough Energy Conservation campaign is focused on reducing energy consumption of employees.
Last year UW-Stout ranked as the second-most energy-efficient campus in the UW System.
AASHE’s STARS program is the only one of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
“The advantage of STARS is that institutions can earn credits for all of their contributions to sustainability,” said AASHE Executive Director Paul Rowland. “From providing sustainability coursework, to using green cleaning products, to energy efficiency in campus buildings there are lots of opportunities for a school to identify and track its sustainability progress.”
The program is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada.
“We are looking forward to the enthusiastic participation from our students and staff, as well as watching our sustainability efforts grow on campus through the STARS program,” Rykal said.
For more information go to the AASHE website or Stars Web page.