As I recorded earlier, SUNY Oswego sponsored its first Citizens Academy for the greater Oswego community this past fall. Starting this January 6th the second Citizens Academy will begin, and it’s very exciting to host a next installment of this important community based sustainability program.
In an earlier blog about the Citizens Academy, I wrote, slightly derisively, about technology, and our consumerist tendencies. In that post, I deliberated on the potential for a “sustainability app” and although no deus-ex-machina solution has appeared to be downloaded yet, another tool has emerged in the context of college sustainability solutions that I’d like to share with you.
This solution, or tool, takes the form of the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) 1.0 that is advanced by AASHE or the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. It is a voluntary, self-reporting framework for gauging sustainability progress by colleges.
STARS is the gold standard for tracking sustainability in higher education, and AASHE is the national body assessing sustainability initiatives across campuses. For those of you familiar with LEED certification, STARS is a comparable tool used to objectively assess a college’s commitment to sustainability. (More information on AASHE and STARS is available here: http://www.aashe.org/ and here: http://www.aashe.org/stars/index.php).
SUNY Oswego has had a strong and ongoing commitment to sustainability. President Stanley is a signatory of the Presidents Climate Commitment; we have a Sustainability Strategic Plan and a Climate Action Plan; our campus has a variety of initiatives that address sustainability on an ongoing basis.
However, the beauty of STARS for an institution like Oswego, that is working to establish priorities and reporting structures, is that it takes the guesswork out of things. The tool provides a framework to gauge both how an individual institution is doing toward completion of objective sustainability criteria, and how an institution compares on a ratings basis to other institutions who are attempting to make their campuses and cultures more sustainable.
It’s like a Zagat guide for sustainability efforts! Brilliant!
SUNY Oswego had previously used the nascent STARS 0.5 version, and conducted in the summer of 2008 an informal, introductory assessment of how Oswego would fare on the STARS. I’m hoping to post that report soon on the college’s sustainability page here: http://www.oswego.edu/about/leadership/sustainability/index.html
Oswego has just signed on to participate in STARS 1.0, and this process requires the college to complete this more formal, yet still voluntary self-report by January 2011. Continue to look for postings on the college’s progress related to its participation in STARS here in the upcoming months.
-Thad Mantaro, SUNY Oswego