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Eastern receives STARS Gold rating for sustainability

Published on December 12, 2022

Eastern receives STARS Gold rating for sustainability

Eastern joins Yale and Conn College as state's only Gold campuses

campus sceneEastern Connecticut State University has received its first Gold rating for sustainability by STARS—the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. Eastern has one of only three Gold ratings in Connecticut and is one of 138 colleges and universities nationwide to be Gold-rated by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The rating is a way for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance in broad areas such as academics, operations, innovation and leadership, among others. Other Connecticut institutions ranked gold are Yale University and Connecticut College.

"I am very proud of Eastern's sustainability leadership and accomplishments," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. Under her leadership, the University has revised its Climate Action Plan and pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 while advancing climate resiliency through participation in Second Nature's Climate Leadership Network.

"While there is much work ahead, we have made good progress and will continue to increase the integration of sustainability into our curriculum, enhance campus and community engagement, and improve efficiencies and carbon-free initiatives in our operations."

"STARS provides a mechanism by which Eastern can prioritize actions to improve sustainable practices across all sectors of campus," said Patricia Szczys, executive director of Eastern's Institute for Sustainability. "This achievement is the result of efforts of the entire community."

The gold rating is valid through 2025, at which point Eastern will submit a new report for review. The University's latest report was peer-reviewed by sustainability specialists at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University for quality control prior to formal STARS submission.

"Earning Gold is not the end of the process," said Szczys. "It is a recognition of relevant actions and values on campus and sets the bar high for our next submission and continues to point us to real and meaningful action on campus."

The STARS program takes a broad look at sustainability and focuses on the categories of academics, engagement, operations, planning & administration and leadership & innovation. In academics, Eastern received high marks for having 20% of overall courses dealing with sustainability concepts and for having 35% of research faculty conducting sustainability research.

For the engagement category, Eastern received new marks for deploying a survey concerning sustainability culture on campus. In the community, Eastern received high marks for its Center for Community Engagement, which partners with a wide range of local agencies to provide students with volunteers opportunities.

In operations, Eastern received high marks for improving its emissions inventory and greenhouse gas reporting. The university also got high marks in the area of landscape management for using native plants and maintaining forested space on campus. Campus dining is another strong area, featuring a composting program and select foods that are locally sourced.

In planning and administration, Eastern received points for deploying an equity/diversity survey, in which the majority of respondents found Eastern's campus to be welcoming and inclusive. The university's revised Climate Action Plan and climate neutrality pledge also resulted in high points.

In innovation and leadership, a variety of new programming gained the university additional points. A group of Eastern students recently worked with Discovering Amistad to teach local high school students about the historic ship The Amistad. Understandings of diversity and inclusion are deepened through the library's Human Library program. And the Institute for Sustainability in collaboration with the cannabis studies program recently launched the New England Sustainable Cannabis Certification (NESCC).

To see Eastern's full STARS report, visit the AASHE website.

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.

Written by by Michael Rouleau