Last month, the University received a silver STARS rating regarding the sustainability of Auburn’s campus. The Office of Sustainability's reaction to this rating is mixed because originally they had been aiming for gold.
The STARS assessment measures the sustainability of participating college campuses worldwide in the areas of academics, administration, operations and engagement with the campus and community. The Office of Sustainability handles the gathering and reporting of this data on behalf of the University, and submits it for a STARS assessment every 3 years.
Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability, described the office’s reaction to the recent silver rating as having two sides.
“On the one hand, a silver rating indicates solid sustainability performance and acknowledges our efforts,” he said. “It is the result of a lot of work and commitment by people all over campus, and we should feel a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, there is more we can do.”
Jennifer Morse, outreach and communications manager for the Office of Sustainability said the silver rating is the middle of the range compared to other schools. The University also scored silver ratings the past two rounds, despite improvements in certain areas.
“It is important to note that through the years, the reporting tool has been raising the bar” as more sustainability areas are discovered,” Morse said.
All of the universities’ evaluations are available to view and compare on the STARS website.
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The Office of Sustainability said they are framing its goals around their strategic plan and policy as they work for the University’s sustaibility efforts in the future.
“Meeting human needs now and in the future in a fair, just, and equitable way, while protecting and maintaining healthy ecosystems in perpetuity,” Morse said.
The office is in the process of identifying where they can make improvements to get more points three more years from now, the next STARS assessment.
However, it's not just about the points and increasing the University’s score on the assessment. Kensler added.
“It’s making sure we’re having the biggest impact we can have - that students are leaving Auburn as prepared as possible to tackle the challenges we face and the opportunities that addressing those challenges present,” Kensler said. “We’re going to focus around how we can achieve the strategic plan [outlined in the sustainability policy] and using the metrics in the STARS system to help us do that.”
The Office of Sustainability is still aiming for a gold rating in the future, putting the University in a pool the office believes it belongs to.
“Auburn considers, and has every reason to, itself to be in a group of peer institutions at top performance across the board, including sustainability,” Kensler said. “We feel like we have the capacity, the talent and the commitment to get to the next level of STARS, which is gold.”
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