Humboldt State University has earned a STARS Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.
This year marks HSU’s third STARS honor. The University earned a Silver Rating in 2013 and a Gold Rating in 2017. Over the last seven years the university has improved its overall sustainability in all of the four areas which AASHE uses to award the STARS ratings: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. These improvements demonstrate that HSU remains a premier institution for teaching and practicing sustainability concepts and values.
HSU’s scores have steadily increased over the last three reports from 55% in 2013, to 69% in 2017, to 72% in 2020. HSU Sustainability Analyst Katie Koscielak attributes this improvement to an increase in the number of departments teaching sustainability in the curriculum, refinement of institutional academic learning outcomes to better incorporate sustainability, increase in the number of faculty conducting sustainability research, increase in equipment expenditures for sustainability/green certified products (specifically within electronics and custodial), development of a stormwater management booklet for campus, and a decrease in construction/demolition waste overall, among other measures. Additionally, the campus offers public ride sharing commuting options like Zipcar and Zimride. The current Gold rating reflects efforts undertaken by HSU from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
HSU’s STARS rating highlights a longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility and social justice. HSU was the first public university in California to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on campus. The University hosts several sustainability programs — many of which are student-led, such as Waste Reduction and Resource Awareness Program (WRRAP), which encourages waste reduction and diversion through its five efforts: the Bicycle Learning Center, Compost, Education, ROSE (Reusable Office Supply Exchange), and Zero-Waste Events.
“We’re very excited that we maintained our Gold rating and we’re one of the top four performers in the CSU system,” says Koscielak, who is careful to note that the rating isn’t competitive and the ideal outcome would be for all universities to improve their STARS rating.
“When we say sustainability for this assessment we’re looking at intersections between social, economic, and environmental dimensions. So we’re not just talking about the environmental stuff, which is a big portion of what they measure. We’re also talking about social justice, access, and diversity.”
With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Humboldt State University has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”
STARS is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.