AASHE Student Diary Series: Students Take on the STARS Reporting Process
This special STARS edition of the AASHE Bulletin Sustainability Student Diary series follows three students who experienced the STARS reporting process at Unity College in Maine. As part of a "STARS: Sustainability Assessment" course at the college, the students chronicled their efforts on Unity's Sustainability Monitor blog. Below are republished excerpts. AASHE welcomes questions and invites feedback on each Sustainability Student Diary entry. Submit diary entries of your own for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 1, 2011
As a student enrolled in the STARS: AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking course, and an intern in the Sustainability office, I am on the frontline of the sustainability efforts and energy tracking taking place on campus. This work has provided me a unique opportunity to influence the procedure the college uses to track energy usage and implementation of energy conservation measures on campus. My work involved the untangling of years worth of energy data in several different formats, and organizing it all in easy to understand workbooks.
As part of my internship, I have established and institutionalized an Excel workbook to track campus utilities, BTU’s and emissions by building on campus. I have also created a data file to track these values from year to year. These two data files allow our sustainability coordinator to monitor energy usage on campus, and to understand the implications of various energy conservation measures. These efforts began in the fall of 2010, and were critically important to the STARS reporting taking place this semester.
In the STARS class, we were able to choose the credits that we wished to pursue. I immediately thought of the energy and climate credits because of my experience with energy tracking on campus. My data management work made the STARS reporting for the energy credits much easier since I had already found, sorted and organized the data. These efforts have been instrumental in the creation of institutionalized energy tracking. The STARS class is enforcing the importance of tracking the campus-wide sustainability efforts to staff, faculty and students.
Previously, energy tracking has not taken precedence over other sustainability efforts, and consequently has hindered our ability to assess building performance, building efficiency and occupant behavior and energy use. This is especially challenging when nearly every electrical meter has multiple buildings feeding into it. Our recent efforts to understand campus-wide energy use by tracking utility data is a transition to better understand our sustainability efforts and to begin to quantify those efforts.
The STARS reporting is allowing us to evaluate our efforts, and where improvements can be made. When the time comes where we can quantify the energy use per building, we will be able to implement educational, behavioral change programs. This is the “real” work of the sustainability office; to provide education to the campus community on how to live, work and act more sustainably and live an ecologically aware life. The culmination of our work in the office and with STARS is preparing us, personally and as an institution, to address the imminent global environmental and energy issues of the 21st Century.
Shayne Van Leer
April 29, 2011
Unity College is filling out AASHE’s STARS for the first time...STARS is currently being conducted by our sustainability coordinator and three Unity College students. This assessment is popular among colleges because of its comprehensive focus on sustainability. Not only does it focus on the institution’s environmental performance, it also focuses on the institution’s social performance. The college’s performance includes Operations, Planning, Administration and Engagement, and Education and Research.
With that mind, as I started collecting data and filling out the credits, I noticed that there was a trend towards an institution’s policies. By this I mean that some credits were worded as, “Does your institution have an institution-wide stated preference for…..?” My response to this is; does an institution have to have a “policy” to be sustainable?
Here at Unity College all of the paper we purchase is 100 percent recycled content, all of the cleaning products that our maintenance department uses are Green Seal certified. Unity College does not have a “stated” preference for these things but we do have a preference for these things. In reality, in both situations an institution would be equally sustainable with or without a policy. However, with STARS, Purchasing credits require a purchasing policy to receive full credit.
Yes, there is a benefit to having a written policy; a policy would bind departments to purchasing things like recycled paper and Green Seal certified cleaning products. Here at Unity College things are a little different. Sustainability is intertwined into everything we do. Working towards sustainability is ingrained into our everyday lives. From class projects to classes, from faculty and staff to entire departments, sustainability is part of our job description, culture and our way of life.
In my personal opinion I feel that Unity College would not benefit from having a formal purchasing policy because we follow an unwritten rule of purchasing 100 percent recycled paper and Green Sealed cleaning products. However, if someone wanted to take the time to write a policy it would help us receive credit on the STARS application, but would not further sustainability at Unity College.
April 30, 2011
The Environmental Stewardship Core Curriculum is a primary component of the Unity College education. There are four courses that are distributed through the four years and they prepare Unity graduates for leadership roles in environmental issues, on levels ranging from local to global...
...What draws attention to these classes is the ability that they give students to go after what they are passionate about. As part of my work for the STARS credit report, I took a deep look at the structure and function of academics here at Unity College. I was in charge of collecting information on the Education and Research credits; as I talked to the school’s registrar, teachers and faculty about the co-curricular education credits, it struck me to find out that many schools in the nation are just starting to put together a sustainability curriculum. STARS gives a lot of credit to sustainability education and the fact that all of us at Unity are required to take these classes makes me feel that we are being trained at a deeper level to become environmental stewards. We are a community that is aware of the problems today’s societies are facing and we are being trained on how to approach them while also increasing sustainability awareness on campus.
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