The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has developed a system to benchmark universities across the nation in all aspects of sustainability. Universities can choose to be entered into this rating system and receive awards and rankings based on their advancements in sustainability. STARS is designed to encompass “long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions, as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are taking first steps toward sustainability” (STARS). This program is a basic checklist that higher education institutions can decide what to implement into their school, and then based on how well it’s done they are awarded points. The schools are then placed into several different categories and rankings. These rankings provide incentives for schools to continue to improve programs and use sustainable practices.
Once schools are entered into the rating system they can begin to earn points and work towards a bronze, silver, gold, and platinum rating. Overall points count towards the ranking, and currently only 6 schools have been awarded the platinum ranking. The University of Utah received the Silver award in 2017, and they’re working towards achieving the gold ranking. In order to achieve higher rankings, you score points in several different categories including: Institutional Characteristics, Academics, Engagement, Operations, Planning and Administration, and Innovation and Leadership. Each category has a top-ranking school, and often each top school is different. Some schools excel in different areas. This system incorporates everything in order to assess how sustainable an institution is ranging from course work, campus grounds, campus events, and research. Sustainability can be found in all areas and programs of a higher institution, and this ranking system is helping schools move towards a sustainable future. The higher ranked schools are setting an example to the rest of the nation, proving that an environmentally friendly education is possible.