In recognition of its sustainability achievements, West Chester University has earned a STARS Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) measures and encourages sustainability in all educational and operational aspects of higher education.
With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
“Earning the STARS Silver rating is external validation of the university’s sustainability efforts by an important organization,” said Bradley Flamm, director of WCU’s Office of Sustainability. He pointed out that WCU’s STARS score of 55.44 this year is four points above its 2020 level.
“Environmental, economic, and social sustainability are core principles the WCU community applies to our teaching, research, support services, and operations,” said West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino. “Sustainability is one of the university’s five priority areas in our strategic plan, and we continually assess our efforts to identify ways to achieve our sustainability commitments.”
West Chester University has long supported sustainability initiatives even prior to establishing the Office of Sustainability in 2017. WCU’s first AASHE Stars submission received a “Reporter” rating in 2012. The 2018 and 2019 submissions received Bronze ratings, and the 2020 and 2022 submissions received Silver ratings.
Flam outlined several of the university’s notable accomplishments:
Curriculum – Academic Courses: More than 400 graduate and undergraduate courses are identified as Sustainability Inclusive or Sustainability Focused and 81 percent of academic departments offer one or more courses that emphasize principles and objectives found in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Campus Engagement – Student Educators Program: In the most recent academic year, thousands of WCU students engaged with sustainability-focused student educator programs, including Sustainability Peer Educators, Wellness Promotion Peer Educators, and Commuter Assistants.
Campus Engagement – Student and Employee Orientation: All incoming first-year and undergraduate transfer students have access to orientation activities that prominently include sustainability via an online orientation platform, in-person tours of the 125-acre Gordon Natural Area, and volunteer opportunities in WCU’s organic vegetable gardens. In 2021, WCU’s HR office partnered with the Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Council to develop online modules focused on sustainable commute alternatives for new employees, WCU’s sustainability commitments, and opportunities to contribute to achieving them.
Operations – Energy: West Chester University has made substantial investments in low-carbon, high-efficiency geo-exchange heating and cooling systems that now cover more than half of campus academic, administrative, and student housing building space.
Planning & Administration – Inclusive and Participatory Governance: Between 2020 and 2022 the number of women serving on WCU’s Council of Trustees doubled to four. Opportunities exist for students, faculty, and non-academic staff to participate in shared governance.
Flamm also reported increased partnership opportunities with the West Chester Green Team, a local environmental civic organization that works to educate the public and establish and nourish green initiatives in the community.
In collecting data for the AASHE STARS report, Flamm has formulated plans to ensure continued progress toward a more sustainable campus. One element is a sustainability census Sustainability Council Chair Aliza Richman, associate professor of sociology, will deploy to the campus community during the 2022-2023 academic year. It is supported by WCU’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs’ Sustainability Research and Creative Activities grant program.
For more information about West Chester University’s sustainability initiatives, visit the website.