UW-Stout News Story

University achieves silver ranking in national sustainability program

August 14, 2013

University of Wisconsin-Stout has achieved a silver ranking in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ STARS, a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure sustainability performance.

STARS is a feature of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, whose mission is to empower higher education in leading the sustainability transformation.

UW-Stout’s Environmental Sustainability Office participated in the program for the first time in 2012.

“After a year's worth of data-gathering and analysis by the Sustainability Office, I am pleased to say that UW-Stout received a silver ranking in our inaugural year,” said Sarah Rykal, sustainability coordinator.

Sarah Rykal
The system involves awarding points for a set criterion of indicators. For example, in the Dining Services category of food and beverage purchasing, institutions can earn points in one of two ways: by establishing that food and beverages are grown and processed within 250 miles of the institution; or that they are third-party certified by one of the following: USDA Certified Organic; Marine Stewardship Council Blue Ecolabel; Food Alliance; Fair Trade; or Certified Humane Raised and Handled.

“After a lot of research, we determined that 16.14 percent of our food and beverage purchases met one of these criteria,” Rykal said.

The STARS program, open to U.S.-based colleges or universities, enables institutions to compare sustainability practices and provides structure for continuous improvement.

STARS has platinum, gold, silver and bronze levels for institutions that wish to be scored.
Institutions being scored commit to extensive data-gathering and to having their scores made public. They also represent a commitment to sustainability.

Institutions may choose to participate in the reporter level; scores are not published.

“The immediate significance of the award,” Rykal said, “is that it has allowed us to benchmark where we are in all areas of curriculum and research and in operations and planning.”

In the long run the assessment allows the university to improve its sustainability record and “to reduce our carbon footprint as a campus,” she said.

“We plan to complete STARS every other year, so we can see how we've improved with each new assessment and continually move toward becoming a more sustainable campus,” Rykal said.

For more information about the STARS program and UW-Stout’s score, refer to Environmental Sustainability Office.

The university offers an online B.S. degree in sustainable management. For more information refer here or contact Dennis Weibel, program director, at 715-232-2597.

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