UC Berkeley earns gold rating for sustainability initiatives, places 11th nationwide

A woman stands among many solar panels.
Kira Stoll/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley was awarded with a gold rating by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, for its sustainability initiatives, placing 11th in the nation.

STARS, a program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. By participating in STARS, an institution can earn points toward a STARS bronze, silver, gold or platinum rating. These ratings last three years, according to AASHE Director of Programs Julian Dautremont.

“The STARS system covers a range of topics from academics and research, to how we operate on the campus, to public engagement,” said campus Director of Sustainability Kira Stoll. “There is a question about how our endowments are invested and whether or not they have sustainability features or criteria. It looks at social and economic sustainability indicators. It is quite broad.”

UC Berkeley received a score of 78.5 out of 100 in six different categories, including institutional characteristics, academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership, according to the STARS website. This is the first time the campus, which ranked 11th out of 900 higher educational institutions, sent a complete submission for STARS reviewal.

UC Berkeley’s Office of Sustainability mainly focuses on the improvement of the campus’s environmental performance by finding ways to increase renewable energy sources, according to Stoll. The Office of Sustainability hopes to achieve zero waste by 2020 and carbon neutrality by 2025, she added.

“There are multiple other areas that are also really important to us — adding more renewable energy, which is part of the carbon program, and working to reduce how much energy we use by 2 percent every year,” Stoll said.

STARS incorporates rankings for the social dimensions of sustainability, including categories such as diversity and equity coordination as well as affordability and access, according to Dautremont. The campus received a ranking of 9.61 out of 10 for diversity and affordability, according to the STARS website.

To continue the campus’s sustainability progress, campus organizations such as the ASUC and CALPIRG work to find solutions to sustainability issues, according to ASUC Senator Anna Whitney. For instance, the ASUC is working with CALPIRG to solidify renewable energy goals for this year and is also coordinating with Stoll to install a second round of solar panels on campus.

“Most importantly, though, we were learning from doing the assessment about what we can do more of and better. We are already starting to implement initiatives in the areas where we know we can do more,” Stoll said. “It really opened up new opportunities for us and conversations towards sustainability.”

Contact Stanley von Ehrenstein-Smith and Emily Hom at [email protected].