AASHE’s roots go back to the Education for Sustainability Western Network (EFS West), established by Second Nature in 2001 with funding from the Compton Foundation. EFS West served college and university campuses in the western U.S. and Canada, providing resources and support for their sustainability efforts.

In 2004, EFS West held the first North American Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education in Portland, Oregon. The success of this conference and increasing demand for EFS West’s resources led it to transition from a regional network to an independent higher education association serving all of North America – the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE was officially launched in December 2005, serving as the first professional higher education association for the campus sustainability community in North America.



  • AASHE officially launched in Portland, OR with two staff members. Judy Walton served as the first Executive Director.


  • The AASHE Bulletin launched as a comprehensive listing of news, opportunities and resources related to higher education sustainability. By the end of the year, more than 250 stories were published, demonstrating the strength of our community.
  • AASHE held first its conference in Tempe, AZ, with over 650 attendees.
  • American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) was created with support from AASHE, Second Nature and ecoAmerica. Signatories to this commitment pledged to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions, take immediate actions to reduce them, and develop and implement a plan to go climate neutral.
  • AASHE’s Campus Sustainability Achievement Awards and Student Sustainability Leadership Award were given for the first time.


  • AASHE’s first physical office opened in Lexington, KY.


  • AASHE held its second conference in Raleigh, NC with more than 1,700 participants, more than double the attendance at its first conference.
  • The bi-annual Sustainability Staffing Survey was published serving as a standard reference for providing insights into salaries, funding, supervision, job satisfaction, challenges and more as well as increasing our understanding of the continuously growing career field of higher education sustainability.


  • AASHE opened a new office in Denver, CO.
  • AASHE held a joint conference with Ball State University in Indianapolis and grew large enough to commit to an annual conference format.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) bestowed their prestigious Leadership in Non-Governmental Organization Sector award to AASHE, eco-America and Second Nature for the development of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which by that time had been signed by more than 700 college and university presidents.


  • AASHE was recognized by the North American Association for Environmental Education as the Outstanding Service to Environmental Education Organization, Global Level.
  • Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) 1.0 launched providing institutions the opportunity to benchmark their sustainability efforts.


  • AASHE launched the international pilot for STARS to enable campuses outside of the U.S. and Canada to participate and report their sustainability data.
  • The first Sustainability Officer’s Retreat was held in Nebraska City, NE.


  • A new logo was introduced as a visual representation of how AASHE serves as the bridge toward sustainability in higher education.
  • A partnership between STARS, Sierra magazine and The Princeton Review is formed to help streamline sustainability reporting efforts.


  • STARS 2.0 was launched, which includes a free basic access tier to provide an opportunity for new participants to try it out before making a financial commitment and make STARS more accessible to under-resourced institutions.


  • STARS surpassed 500 ratings representing a significant increase in sustainability reporting and advancements in sustainability.


  • AASHE celebrated its tenth anniversary, an important milestone for the higher education sustainability movement that provided the community a chance to reflect about how far it’s come, what it’s learned and where it’s going.
  • 2,337 attendees came together in Minneapolis, MN for the most attended conference ever.
  • AASHE granted its members voting rights, which allows members to elect a portion of the Board of Directors.
  • Colorado State University became the first institution to earn a STARS Platinum Rating, the highest rating available.
  • The American College in Greece became the first institution in Europe to earn a STARS rating.
  • The Green Gigawatt Partnership initiative began in an effort to catalyze at least one gigawatt of new green power in higher education by using long-term, large-scale, power purchase agreements.
  • The Sustainable Campus Index publication was introduced to recognize top-performing colleges and universities in 17 distinct aspects of sustainability, as measured by STARS.
  • AASHE celebrated Campus Sustainability Month throughout October for the first time to engage and inspire incoming students and other campus stakeholders to become sustainability change agents. The event builds on Campus Sustainability Day, which had been celebrated on the fourth Wednesday in October since 2003.


  • The Campus Sustainability Hub, an online resource library that allows AASHE members to connect, share and learn about sustainability in higher education, was released to provide an ever-growing library of resources to AASHE members.
  • STARS 2.1 launched with new features including data auto-population, exemplary practice options and a pre-publication review process to make sustainability reporting easier.


Learn more about our activities and growth over the years.
View Annual Reports