NAU exceeds silver STARS rating
By Caleb McClure
Northern Arizona University (NAU) took major strides towards sustainability, joining ASU and UA to become the 41st higher education institution to be awarded a gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
The STARS program is a self-reported ranking system, overseen by Association for Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Obtaining this ranking is a requirement of the President’s Climate Commitment NAU President John Haegar signed in 2007, which promises NAU will become a carbon neutral campus by 2020.
“[STARS] is the accumulative, comprehensive snapshot of everything we do, [regarding sustainability]” Bryan McLaren, NAU sustainability coordinator, said. McClaren is also the university’s liaison to the STARS program.
STARS rates a university based on three major categories: education and research, campus operations and planning and administration and engagement. There is also an innovation category, which is only worth four points of the rating system.
NAU excelled highly in the education and research category.
“It’s super clear that NAU is dominating curriculum in sustainability,” McLaren said. “Everything we have going on from the Global Learning Initiative (GLI), which puts sustainability learning outcomes in every major path. We have some of the most well-known graduate and undergraduate degrees in sustainability.”
The gold rating is an improvement from last year’s silver rating. The advancements to push us from silver to gold were mostly made within the curriculum.
“We made a huge advancement in the past couple of years, especially this past year with integrating sustainability into the curriculum, inside and outside the class room,” McLaren said.
Even though the report is self-ranking, McLaren wanted to avoid “green-washing” (appearing to be more sustainable than actuality) and to ensure the report was done with integrity.
“I wanted to make sure anyone who looked at NAU’s report . . . had full assurance and back up that these things were actually happening,” McLaren said.
The university was recognized based on aspects such as the Sustainable Living and Urban Garden (SLUG), sustainability oriented courses, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and attempts to increase energy efficiency on campus.
The full report is available at green.nau.edu, as are details as to which aspects were considered notable.