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Colorado State University is building upon its global reputation as an innovative leader in sustainability by becoming the only institution in the world to earn three Platinum ratings from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
AASHE recently awarded CSU a Platinum rating for a record third time under its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), an independent program that measures comprehensive sustainability efforts at 990 universities around the world.
CSU earned the best score in the United States at 88.14 points, joining Stanford University; Thompson Rivers University in Canada; University of New Hampshire, and the University of California, Irvine as the only institutions ever to receive Platinum ratings. CSU’s score was 2.58 points higher than its previous score in 2017.
“To earn a third platinum rating with the best STARS score in the U.S. is incredible recognition of all the work done by the faculty, staff and students of Colorado State University. Sustainability is a true community effort, and we at CSU take sustainability as a point of pride in everything we do,” said CSU President Joyce McConnell. “I want to thank everyone at Colorado State who had a hand in helping our institution reach this impressive benchmark, and I also ask that everyone keep working. Sustainability is not a plateau where we can say ‘we’ve done enough.’ There are areas where we can improve and become an even more sustainable place to learn and discover.”
Commitment to sustainability
In 2015, CSU was the first university in the world to earn a Platinum STARS rating. The historic results were repeated in 2017 when CSU went Platinum for a second time.
CSU has not rested since then.
Since 2017, the University has added more than 335,000 square feet of new LEED Platinum- or Gold-certified classrooms, research space and offices. The League of American Bicyclists also recertified the institution as a Platinum-level community in 2019.
CSU also created the Ram Food Recovery Program to redistribute food items, when deemed safe, to the campus community to address both food insecurity and waste.
One student idea resulted in the creation of several student-managed apiaries on campus as well as pollinator-friendly gardens, which led to CSU’s certification from Bee Campus USA in 2018.
“Our faculty, staff and students continue to probe sustainability issues in diverse fields,” McConnell said. “We uncover new challenges every day. And like other STARS-reporting intuitions, we are passionately committed to addressing those challenges, solving the problems they bring, developing solutions and generating new ideas that will offer all of us hope moving forward.”
STARS measures more than 1,000 individual data points across four comprehensive categories: Academics and Research, Engagement, Operations and Planning and Administration. Based on the score received, institutions are awarded a rating of Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
CSU has made major sustainability strides since the last STARS round. There are now 18 solar PV installations that are generating over 10 million kWh/year of electricity across campus.
With faculty, nearly 50% of all tenure and tenure-track faculty conducting research are actively engaged in sustainability research. Eighty percent of all campus academic departments have at least one faculty or staff member conducting sustainability research.
CSU also continues to make progress toward its commitment to use 100% renewable electricity by 2030. In 2019, Facilities Management and Housing & Dining Services respectively offset 20% and 100% of its electricity use, bringing the campus total to 13.5%.
“This STARS report reflects a deep commitment to sustainability at all levels of the university including student activism, learning outcomes in the classroom, cutting-edge research in laboratories, service learning in the community, and outreach across the state of Colorado,” said Tonie Miyamoto, co-chair for the President’s Sustainability Commission and director of communications and sustainability for Housing & Dining Services. “Every college and division contributed to this achievement.”
Sustainability impact across campus
School of Global Environmental Sustainability
Advocates for public policies that support campus sustainability and funds the Global Challenges Research Teams to address the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.
Uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop innovative solutions to global energy challenges and create clean, sustainable alternatives to existing energy sources at the Powerhouse campus.
College of Agricultural Sciences
Offers 23 sustainability-focused majors, concentrations and specializations and nine Agricultural Experiment Stations focusing on participatory learning.
College of Business
Offers a college-level sustainability learning outcome and the Impact MBA Program with a corporate sustainability track.
College of Health and Human Sciences
Includes a class on sustainable buildings and infrastructure as well as a graduate concentration in sustainability and resilience in the Construction Management program.
College of Liberal Arts
Has 126 courses that focus on or include sustainability as well as a Ph.D. program in environmental politics and policy in the political science department.
College of Natural Sciences
Provides an environmental psychology course; a professor also is developing sustainable materials to replace hard-to-recycle products.
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Home to an environmental health program as well as the CSU Honeybee Veterinary Medicine Club and Center for Environmental Medicine.
Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering
Home to an environmental engineering degree as well as the CSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which empowers quality of life through sustainable engineering projects.
Warner College of Natural Resources
Offers 161 courses that focus on or include sustainability as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. in ecosystem sustainability.