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Appalachian retains STARS® Gold rating for sustainability achievements

BOONE—Appalachian State University has maintained its STARS® Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements in academics, research, campus and public engagement, and operations.

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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS®) is administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

STARS® ratings are based on a points system with gold awarded to institutions receiving 65 to 85 points.

Appalachian achieved a 77.24 point score on the self-assessment system and currently has the second-highest score among institutions reporting their STARS data to date. The designation is valid for a three-year period.

Universities and colleges report their benchmarking data on a rolling deadline, but Dr. Lee F. Ball Jr., Appalachian’s interim director of sustainability, is optimistic that the university will remain one of the top reporting institutions.

“This is a snapshot in time for us to be very proud of,” Ball said. “It’s not easy to get a high score like this.”

STARS® is a sustainability focused system, addressing social and economic factors as well as environmental factors. “The breadth and depth of what they ask is really diverse,” Ball said.

Universities submit self-reported scores related to 18 categories

Appalachian achieved 38.22 of 40 points in the academics category which focuses on academic courses, learning outcomes, undergraduate and graduate programs, and immersive experiences. The university reported offering 228 sustainability-related courses at the undergraduate level and 82 at the graduate level. In addition, 876 courses included some aspect of sustainability, from a wide variety of academic programs throughout the university.

The university also received the maximum points available, 20 points, in the campus engagement category and 16 out of a possible 18 points in the research category.

Notable in the public engagement category is the university’s sponsorship of the annual Appalachian Energy Summit, which involves all 17 UNC system campuses. Since the summit began in 2011, campuses have generated $499 million in savings system wide, $103 million of which occurred in 2013-14. The system is on track to avoid $1 billion in utility costs by 2020 and $2 billion by 2025.

The complete report is available online at https://stars.aashe.org/institutions/appalachian-state-university-nc/report/2015-06-10.

Appalachian became involved with the organization in 2008 when at Ball’s urging it participated in the pilot year of the STARS® self-reporting system.

While no certification was awarded that year, Ball said the university learned a lot during the process and gained information to build on that led to Appalachian’s first gold designation in 2012. That year the university achieved 73.1 points in the survey and was in the top 10 among reporting institutions.

Appalachian has a long history and culture related to sustainability. This includes operating a hydro-electric facility that provided power to campus and the town of Boone in the early 1900s, having one of the oldest sustainable development and sustainable technology programs in the country and installing the largest wind turbine in the state in 2009.

In addition, sustainability is a key component of the university’s strategic plan with progress and outcomes measured by the STARS® metric. (http://strategicplanning.appstate.edu/strategic-plan)

“We have used STARS® to infuse sustainability across the university and Appalachian is a national leader in using this tool as part of our strategic plan,” Ball said.

About AASHE

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit http://www.aashe.org. For more information about the STARS® program, visit http://stars.aashe.org.

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