Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS)

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) developed the STARS program in 2006 to accomplish two primary roles: Tracking sustainability progress within an institution and sharing this progress with other institutions. As a tracking tool, STARS provides standards for an institution to measure their existing and proposed sustainability programs, projects, and goals. As a sharing tool, STARS publishes individual results for other members of the program. Using these methods for tracking and publication, STARS provides a comprehensive and standardized means for universities across the United States and Canada to measure and compare their unique sustainability programs and performances relative to other institutions.

"How Green is Western?" Presentation: Measuring Campus Sustainability at WWU


The Office of Sustainability presented the results of Western's standing in the national Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS) framework created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Previous OS Research Associate, Ian Collicott, presented the culmination of two years of his cross-campus research within the three main STARS areas: Education/Research, Operations, and Planning Administration & Engagement. The presentation took place on June 5th, 2013.

STARS is designed to:

  • Provide a framework for understanding sustainability in all sectors of higher education.
  • Enable meaningful comparisons over time and across institutions using a common set of measurements developed with broad participation from the campus sustainability community.
  • Create incentives for continual improvement toward sustainability.
  • Facilitate information sharing about higher education sustainability practices and performance.
  • Build a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community.

The presentation showcased WWU's STARS ratings highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the university effort towards a more sustainable campus. Collicott compared and contrasted WWU's programs, initiatives, numbers, and progress against peer and neighboring colleges using graphical representations. Collicott explored how STARS is a growing interface and its potential as sustainability communication tool.

[ Download Poster | Download Presentation ]

Western Washington University: STARS Silver (February 2013)

STARS Silver
Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 61.29
Liaison Seth Vidana
Submission Date Feb. 6, 2013
President's Letter Download

STARS: Western Washington University Report - Silver (2013)


Since 2006, STARS has undergone a series of revisions and updates to better perform the role of a comprehensive assessment document, including the refinement of a categorical point system. In order to maintain a comprehensive methodology and standard of measurement, STARS categories are necessarily broad and underdefined. This leaves room for individual institutions to shape a unique program so that it accomplishes a specific aspect of a larger, shared goal. The following areas and corresponding percentages indicate Western's performance according to STARS through February 2013. Points are allotted for several potential initiatives in each topic area. Western's point awards are translated into percentages for each area below. (Click on the plus to see strengths and weaknesses for each area.)

Expand MeGrounds – 92%
  • Strengths: Integrated Pest Management Plan, native plants, composting, snow/ice removal, wildlife habitat.

  • Weaknesses: Not current members of Tree Campus USA.

Expand MePurchasing – 76%
  • Strengths: EPEAT Gold computers, Green Seal cleaning products, recycled content paper, prioritizing underutilized businesses.

  • Weaknesses: Sustainability addressed in vendor's codes of conduct, local business preferences.

Expand MeCoordination & Planning – 72%
  • Strengths: Strategic plan, campus plan, climate plan, sustainability coordination (staff, office, committee, etc.)

  • Weaknesses: Sustainability Plan

Expand MeWater – 69%
  • Strengths: Stormwater management, water metering, xeriscaping.

  • Weaknesses: Water consumption, waterless urinals, non-potable water usage.

Expand MeDiversity and Affordability – 67%
  • Strengths: Diversity and equity coordination, measuring campus diversity, support programs for underrepresented groups, Affordability and Access programs, and gender neutral housing.

  • Weaknesses: Support programs for future faculty, employee training opportunities, and student training opportunities.

Expand MeInvestments – 55%
  • Strengths: Positive Sustainability Investments (socially responsible mutual funds). Positive screens, CDFIs, renewable energy, forestry.

  • Weaknesses: Committee on socially responsible investment, shareholder advocacy, student managed SRI funds, investment disclosure.

Expand MeTransportation – 54%
  • Strengths: Student commute modal split, bicycle plan, mass transit, condensed work week, telecommuting, carpool/vanpool matching, carpool discount.

  • Weaknesses: Alternative fueled campus fleet, car sharing, prohibiting idling, local housing, cash-out of parking, bicycle sharing and facilities.

Expand MePublic Engagement – 48%
  • Strengths: Community sustainability partnerships, inter-campus collaboration on sustainability, sustainability policy advocacy, trademark licensing.

  • Weaknesses: Sustainability in continuing education, community service participation/records, graduation pledge, farmers market.

Expand MeHuman Resources – 47%
  • Strengths: Sustainable Compensation, childcare, employee wellness, retirement plans.

  • Weaknesses: Employee satisfaction evaluation, staff professional development in sustainability, sustainability educators program.

Expand MeDining Services – 43%
  • Strengths: Real food challenge, trayless dining, vegan options, trans-fat free, composting, food donation, recycled napkins, reusable mug discounts.

  • Weaknesses: Sustainable food/beverage purchasing, reusable to-go containers.

Expand MeWaste – 43%
  • Strengths: Hazardous waste management, electronic waste recycling program, printing limits, online materials, materials exchange.

  • Weaknesses: Waste reduction, waste diversion, chemical reuse inventory.

Expand MeBuildings – 31%
  • Strengths: Indoor Air Quality plan, LEED construction/design certifications.

  • Weaknesses: None of our buildings are currently certified under the LEED® for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Green Building Rating System.

Expand MeClimate – 21%
  • Strengths: Greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

  • Weaknesses: Greenhouse gas emissions, air travel emissions, local offsets program.

Expand MeEnergy – 17%
  • Strengths: Timers for temperature control, lighting sensors, LED lighting, vending machine sensors, energy management system, energy metering.

  • Weaknesses: Building energy consumption and clean and renewable energy.