University maintains rating in national sustainability program

By University Communications
July 14, 2016
Danielle Olson, a UW-Stout environmental science major from St. Paul, holds a plant during an Earth Day fair in April at UW-Stout.

Photo: Danielle Olson, a UW-Stout environmental science major from
St. Paul, holds a plant during an Earth Day fair in April at UW-Stout.

 University of Wisconsin-Stout has maintained a silver rating in a national sustainability tracking program for universities and colleges.

The rating is the same as UW-Stout’s from 2013, a year after it began participating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. Ratings are every three years.

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

“We can’t manage what we don’t measure. For that reason, the STARS assessment is really important in helping our campus become more sustainable in all its areas, from academics to operations. We can see just where we’re at and then start to explore new opportunities for improvement,” said Sarah Rykal, UW-Stout Sustainability Office director.

The system involves awarding points for a set of indicators. Among UW-Stout’s areas of strength are:

Sustainable Stout logoCurriculum

  • Fifty-seven undergraduate and 16 graduate sustainability courses. Also, 160 undergraduate courses and 52 graduate courses include sustainability as a component.
  • Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in sustainable management
  • Immersive experiences that incorporate sustainability.
  • Opportunities for student sustainability projects.

Public engagement

  • Community partnerships with the Joint Sustainability Working Group, Sustainable Dunn, Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association and more  
  • Continuing education courses that address sustainability

Campus engagement

  • Sustainability training at student orientation
  • Outreach campaigns, including Recyclemania, Biggest Reducer Energy Competition, We Turn Lights Off Here, and I Love Tap Water
  • Outreach materials through the Sustainable Stout Facebook and Instagram pages, sustainability website, various guides, posters, brochures


  • Alternative transportation programs supported by administration and Stout Student Association, such as StoutBikes and Bikeshare; incentives for employees who bike, walk or carpool; Rideshare online carpool matching system; campus and community bus; Enterprise Carshare program; Bike Fixtations repair stations


  • Reducing and diverting waste since 2012, including composting. Since 2011, recycling has increased 626 percent. UW-Stout ranked 28th nationally this year in recycling among universities and colleges.

Coordination, planning, governance:

  • Groups working to increase commitment to sustainability and incorporating sustainability into the strategic planning process: Sustainability Office, Sustainability Steering Committee, Alternative Transportation Work Group, Energy Committee, and Sustainability Across the Curriculum Network.

STARS enables institutions to compare sustainability practices and provides structure for continuous improvement. STARS has platinum, gold, silver and bronze levels. Institutions commit to extensive data-gathering and to having their scores made public.