Published: Aug. 29, 2018

CU Boulder has earned a STARS Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.  

A campus community member gets help at a campus bike station.CU Boulder’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website.

The gold rating is the third such rating for CU Boulder, which filed previous reports in 2010 and 2014 and was the first university in the nation to achieve a STARS Gold rating when it did so in 2010. The 2018 report achieved a score of 75.4, earning 149 out of 203 credits possible. CU Boulder improved its score by nearly four points over the 2014 report (71.7 score) and bolstered CU Boulder’s standing in AASHE’s recently released Sustainable Campus Index.

CU Boulder’s overall STARS score ranks 11th among U.S. doctoral and research universities, fourth among American Association of Universities (AAU) schools and fourth among Pac-12 Conference schools. 

“Our third STARS Gold rating and improved scores are a testament to the great sustainability initiatives being championed by students, faculty and staff all over campus,” said David Kang, vice chancellor for Infrastructure and Sustainability. “We’re excited to see these efforts—and new ones on the horizon—continue to grow and solidify CU Boulder’s standing as a sustainability leader in higher education and the community.”

Notable achievements from CU Boulder’s 2018 report include:

  • The campus earned Innovation credits for two initiatives: the food waste biodigester at the Village Dining Center and Community Commons and the PIPs Rewards app.  
  • Recognized for five exemplary practices: green athletics, grounds certification, campus pride index, bike friendly university and green laboratories. 
  • The score for the Operations category increased by 10 percent over 2014 rating.
  • The categories of Academics and Engagement achieved 85 percent and 88 percent of possible credits, respectively.  

With more than 800 participants in 30 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college and university sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. 

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions. 

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “CU Boulder has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

In addition to the latest STARS Gold standing, CU Boulder was highlighted specifically in the Campus Engagement section of the 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. The Sustainable Campus Index highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from colleges and universities that submitted STARS reports in the most recent calendar year. AASHE highlighted CU Boulder’s PIPs Rewards App, which is a mobile platform that tracks and rewards actions such as riding the bus, biking, volunteering and refilling water bottles.

In the 2017–18 pilot year, 6 percent of the student body participated and earned PIPs (or Positive Impact Points), redeeming them for gift cards and discounts worth more than $10,000 cumulatively. The app also measures sustainability impact through real-time behavior data and has launched campuswide this fall.