CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State University has received a “Gold” designation in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), the second highest rating a university can receive.
STARS is administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, of which OSU is a member. Schools are rated on education and research, operations, planning, administration and engagement, and innovation.
The gold rating is “a significant accomplishment for the university,” according to OSU sustainability coordinator Brandon Trelstad.
“We are the first Oregon university to be rated, let alone reach the (gold) rating,” he said.
Among the efforts that helped OSU achieve a gold ranking include its Student Sustainability Initiative, which has a staff of 10 paid students, and supports a variety of sustainability projects and initiatives around campus, including providing grants for projects that are entirely student-led.
The university also received recognition for its OSU Solar Trailer, a portable trailer that captures and stores solar energy. Its purpose is to demystify and promote alternative energy systems, specifically photovoltaics. The device is used to power outdoor events on campus and in the community.
Two other innovative programs and accomplishments helped propel OSU to the forefront in this rating. The National Network for Sustainable Living Education, was founded and led by Viviane Simon-Brown, OSU Extension's Sustainable Living Project coordinator; and the university opened its LEED Platinum-rated OSU Energy Center, a cogeneration facility that efficiently provides heat and electricity to campus.
Other green highlights on campus include the growing number of LEED-certified buildings, inclusion of hybrid and electric vehicles in the OSU Motor Pool, and an emphasis on sustainability during new student orientation.
Categories in which OSU performed well in the evaluation included co-curricular education, research, dining services, grounds, water, coordination and planning, diversity and affordability, and human resources
Trelstad pointed out that STARS is a valuable tool to measure something that is difficult to quantify.
“Because sustainability means so many different things to different stakeholders, it’s a bit of a challenge to develop solid metrics for performance,” he said. “OSU’s participation in STARS will benefit the institution tremendously as we prioritize future actions related to sustainability, and benchmark against other institutions that are leaders in the field like OSU.”
In a letter to STARS, President Ed Ray explained that sustainability is part of the land, sea and space grant mission.
“It is how we fulfill our mission to the State of Oregon and beyond,” he said. “It is also an increasingly common way of life on campus – from student engagement to campus operations, and from world-changing research to world-class instruction.”