The University of Michigan’s sustainability performance has moved up to a gold rating by the international Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. The new rating is an improvement from the university’s previous silver rating in 2012.

U-M is one of 80 institutions earning a gold rating, and among more than 700 colleges and universities around the globe using the STARS reporting tool as a method to compare sustainability in higher education. Only one institution, Colorado State University, has earned platinum status, the highest possible rating.

“We have signed on to STARS because we value it as a transparent tool for measuring progress toward environmental, social and economic sustainability throughout higher education,” says President Mark Schlissel in the university’s submission letter.

Developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, STARS uses a self-reporting framework to benchmark sustainability efforts in the areas of academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation.

The university received high marks in almost all areas, with perfect scores under curriculum for undergraduate and graduate program offerings in sustainability.

U-M also scored well for the nearly 800 faculty members involved in sustainability-related research, and for its efforts to engage the campus community in sustainability through programs like the Planet Blue Ambassadors and Sustainable Workplace Certification.

Sustainable campus operations efforts received the least amount of points based on the STARS rating criteria, which largely awards points for reductions of greenhouse gases, energy use, waste and water use.

“We’ve made a positive impact by maintaining our environmental footprint over the last 10 years despite significant campus growth,” says Andy Berki, manager of the Office of Campus Sustainability.

“Several committees appointed by the president began exploring opportunities for further progress on our sustainability goals in the areas energy, waste and culture, and will provide recommendations on how the university can make more progress in these areas.” 

The annual Sustainability Progress Report highlights university efforts to create a more sustainable future through education, research and campus operations, including the use of more environmentally-friendly land management practices; an increase in alternative transportation options; and a continued reduction of energy use in 137 major campus buildings supported by the Energy Management Team.

Data collection for the STARS submission was co-led by the Graham Sustainability Institute and the Office of Campus Sustainability.

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