University Launches Campus-Wide Sustainability Assessment

Humboldt State University is out to prove it’s serious about sustainability.

Beginning this semester, HSU is kicking off a comprehensive sustainability assessment of all of its functions and facilities, using STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. It is a self-reporting framework for measuring progress that will be managed by HSU’s Office of Sustainability.

STARS is a collaboration of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) with numerous institutions of higher education.

Reporting data compiled by campus departments and offices will be used to benchmark Humboldt State’s performance with that of more than 300 other peer institutions in these areas: interdisciplinary curricular programs, efficient physical plant operations and university procurement and investment.

The Office of Sustainability is contacting key offices and departments with details about the specific information they will be asked to supply. Director TC Comet said his office will help troubleshoot any issues in collecting the required data; collection is slated to wrap up by the end of the fall semester.

STARS orientation sessions for data reporters will be held in September and online data entry will proceed until December. Comet’s office will submit its assessment report to the Denver-based AASHE in March and Humboldt State’s rating will be announced in May.

Founded in 2006, AASHE generates important information and resources for advancing the concepts of sustainability in higher education. Member colleges and universities model and advance sustainability across-the-board, from education and research to governance and operations.

“The credit-based system of STARS provides a good tool for rating both quantitative and qualitative information,” Comet said. “It also has the advantage of providing member campuses with both internal and external comparisons of their performance in sustainability.”

Fulfillment of each credit carries a set number of points for platinum, gold, silver, and bronze awards. A school’s rating is computed from averaging the total points from three STARS sectors: education & research, operations and planning and administration and engagement.

All of the detailed credits of member institutions are posted online. The STARS website enables users to filter data for specific universities, sustain­ability categories and rating levels. Users can see for themselves what it takes to win a gold rating.

“The assessment provides a standardized method for us to compare our efforts to those of other campuses,” Comet explained. “And it allows us to share our sustainability practices with the public and other institutions.”

AASHE’s Resource Center is a clearinghouse for campus sustainability information. It includes policy databases, best practices, case studies, planning and assessment tools, surveys, reports, how-to guides, job descriptions and campus profiles.

Students also have the member-only resources of two sister organizations, Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) and the United Kingdom’s Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC).

As a member of AASHE, Humboldt State links its students to the association’s resources, network of support and professional development. Students can create their own profiles and obtain AASHE publications about sustainability in all realms of campus life.

The STARS website address is

Information and updates on HSU’s STARS efforts will be posted on the Green Scene at