Puget Sound Collects “Gold” for Going Green

August 17, 2012

U.S. campuses are rated for their sustainability by new STARS system

TACOMA, Wash. – It’s not quite Olympic, but the gold that University of Puget Sound has brought home to Tacoma took plenty of heart, sweat, and dedication from a very large and single-minded team. And it came about not because the college was pursuing gold, but simply because its people wanted to “go green.”

Puget Sound has achieved a gold rating in a new, national system for measuring sustainable practices that involves more than 350 colleges and universities nationwide. The ambitious, campus-tracking program known as STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) is a voluntary, self-reporting framework for measuring and comparing colleges’ progress in taking care of the planet and its people. Puget Sound, a charter member of the group, submitted its STARS report this summer.

“Out of our 26 liberal arts peer colleges nationwide, we are one of only two to attain a gold rating,” said John Hickey, Puget Sound’s associate vice president of business services and co-chair of the Sustainability Advisory Committee. “Participating in STARS and seeing what other colleges are doing has helped us identify what we already do well and pinpoint how to improve in a strategic manner.”

STARS launched nationwide in January 2010 with the aim of providing a meaningful, fair, and comprehensive means of assessing sustainability at colleges and universities. It was established by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas has led and encouraged sustainability on campus since his arrival in July 2003. In February 2005 he established the Sustainability Advisory Committee, which includes faculty, staff, and students, to plan and lead the Logger effort.

Travis Freidman, Puget Sound’s new sustainability coordinator, said campuses that choose to report to STARS are guided by about 300 pages of criteria that measure sustainability and assign points in three major areas: education and research; operations; and planning, administration, and engagement.

“We’re doing a really good job and it’s important that we are recognized, but now we want to go to the next level,” Freidman said. “It’s been quite incredible with everyone from custodial services to the music department pitching in.” Some of the many campus efforts that have helped Puget Sound earn gold include:

  • Sustainability is embedded throughout the curriculum and research. Workshops for faculty members led to a remarkable 32 out of 34 academic departments incorporating sustainability into at least one course. An environmental policy and decision making minor was also introduced.
  • At freshman orientation students are immersed in “triple bottom line learning and living.” This emphasizes the three benefits of sustainability: people, planet, and profit.
  • Student programs are numerous: for example, Loggers Live Green branding; Green Advocates educational events in residence halls; the organic garden; Move Out donations to Goodwill; and a student residence composting program.
  • Dining service initiatives include serving food and drink that is locally or sustainably grown; donation of leftover food to local shelters; vegan food; and reusable mugs, utensils, and containers.
  • Sustainable building practices have achieved LEED Gold certification for three recently constructed campus buildings: Weyerhaeuser Hall, the Facilities Services complex, and the Live Green House.
  • Transportation initiatives include the popular Trip Commute Reduction Program, hosting the annual City of Tacoma Bike Swap event, alternate fuel campus vehicles, and vehicle-sharing Zipcars.
  • The Sound Policy Institute offers educational programs and local partnerships to address South Puget Sound environmental policies. Puget Sound also appointed its first-ever sustainability coordinator.
  • Speakers on campus and community partnerships, such as the South Sound Sustainability Expo, raise awareness of environmental issues.
  • Campuswide there are recycling efforts, purchases of “green” products, energy and water management, growing of native plants, and the new PrintGreen effort to reduce paper use.
  • The Student Diversity Center; Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Community Involvement and Action Center; Office of Spirituality, Service and Social Justice; and Greek houses lead efforts for inclusion and student volunteerism in the community.

Of the 201 higher education institutions that have reported to STARS so far, 37 of the campus self-assessments were rated as gold and 97 as silver. The rest either rated as bronze or reported their efforts without seeking a rating. No campus has yet achieved the highest rating of platinum. Most of the data is publically available, allowing institutions to learn from each other and encouraging all to move ahead.

To read Puget Sound’s STARS report: https://stars.aashe.org/institutions/university-of-puget-sound-wa/report/2012-07-25/9/40/282/

To learn more about STARS: http://www.aashe.org/stars/index.php

To learn about sustainability at Puget Sound: https://www.pugetsound.edu/about/sustainability-at-puget-sound/

Photos of the Puget Sound campus can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos

Photos on page: Top right: Betty Popenuck '14 and Annie Bigalke '13 check campus garbage for recyclables in Garbology event; Top left: Students and local citizens take a sailing tour of the restoration of local waterways in classes held by Sound Policy Institute; Above right: Forest Beutel '11 works in the organic garden; Above left: Local teens thank Operatoin S.A.V.E. for recycled clothing, shoes and backpacks (courtesy of the Community Involvement and Action Center).

Tweet this: It’s Gold! @univpugetsound—for all that we do #green. We’re in STARS sustainability ratings for campuses. http://bit.ly/PuBVxY

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