Evergreen Gets Silver STARS Rating for Sustainability

Student groups take on service projects at a variety of sites both on and off-campus for the annual Community to Community Day of Action on Weds., Sept. 19, 2018. Cleaning the solar panels on the roof of the Library building.

The Evergreen State College was recently recognized for its sustainability practices.

On October 24, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, awarded the public liberal arts and sciences college a rating of “silver” for efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, draw energy from renewable sources and promoting environmental awareness and justice, among other things.

Scott Morgan, director of sustainability at Evergreen, said the college has been working towards the certification for some time.

“It sets a benchmark for us to both measure our progress and use for planning next steps in the following years.”

The AASHE rating system, called STARS, is a broadly comprehensive assessment of institutional policies, practices, and commitments to both environmental and social sustainability. 

Evergreen’s silver Star rating is respectable, but below the gold and platinum levels the college aspires to reach.

A few Evergreen faculty, since retired, and Master of Environmental Studies students were involved in the initial development of STARS in 2008. STARS has evolved since then, raising the bar for campus sustainability as more and more institutions have been making deliberate improvements in their operations and academic offerings.

“It is a recognition of the ongoing work by many people on every level and in every corner of the campus,” said Morgan. 

Most of the work needed to complete STARS – hundreds of hours of time – was performed by students in Graduate Sustainability Fellowships, funded by a small endowment managed by the college.

Evergreen scored highest in the planning and administration areas for investment and finance with 86%. Other highlights included 83% in the research category and 73% for campus engagement. In the air and climate category, Evergreen scored 66%, which puts the college in the top 25% of all campuses currently certified.

The assessment also helps the college identify areas where it needs to focus more effort. The lowest scores for Evergreen were in the operations category for food and dining, with 25% and for buildings, with 20%. 

“It is a great way for us to understand what we need to work on and how we compare with our peers in academia across the country,” said Morgan.

All the data was self-reported and this is the second time the college has been recognized by AASHE. The certification lasts 3 years.