STARS, created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, is a transparent, self-reporting framework used by more than 700 universities and colleges. The program measures achievement in sustainability and awards rankings, including bronze, silver, gold and platinum, based on performance metrics. The U of S first implemented STARS in 2011, in many cases using 2004 data as a baseline against which to compare progress.
President Peter Stoicheff has made increasing sustainability on campus a priority. Last year, he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U of S Students’ Union to work together to support, promote and champion sustainability efforts at the university and created the President’s Sustainability Council, headed by School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) Executive Director Toddi Steelman. This council is working to provide the president with advice to better position the U of S to contribute to a sustainable future.
“The U of S is three years ahead of schedule in hitting its silver rating, which is great news,” Steelman said. “We are also only about 10 points away from achieving gold, which is a realistic goal for us to achieve in the next three years. Importantly, out of the U15 (universities), only eight actively participate in the STARS program, so we are among the elite who really invest in this kind of public reporting and commitment to achieving sustainability outcomes.”
The U of S Office of Sustainability has been collecting and submitting data to STARS on hundreds of sustainability indicators, ranging from energy use to student groups to sustainability research. Several new pushes in sustainability helped the university gain points toward STARS silver, including updated lighting in buildings, plumbing retrofits that save 30,000 litres of water every day in the education building alone, as well as the campus sustainability revolving fund, which re-invests savings accrued from environmentally-friendly endeavours to support future initiatives.
SENS, the Sustainability Education Research Institute and other faculty working on various aspects of sustainability have had an enormous impact on the U of S rating.
Partnerships with First Nations, increased Aboriginal enrolment and recent developments such as the building of the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre, have also had an effect on the university’s STARS rating.
“Indigenization and reconciliation support the social and cultural dimensions of sustainability,” said U of S sustainability co-ordinator Margret Asmuss. “Sustainability, at its core, isn’t just about the environment. There are three legs to the stool: environment, society and economy, and those three have to be working together.”
“Now that we’re silver, we’re being recognized for the things that we’re doing,” said Matt Wolsfeld, community engagement co-ordinator with the Office of Sustainability. “It’s easier to talk about sustainability, it’s easier to talk about the successes we’ve had and to talk about keeping that momentum going.”
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University of Saskatchewan