UC Berkeley received a platinum rating in sustainability from the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS, a sustainability ranking system for colleges and universities that considers environmental, social and economic factors.
Of the 674 colleges and universities with an active STARS ranking, campus’s score of 85.39 ranked seventh.
“It was not easy to achieve a STARS Platinum rating, and this achievement would not have been possible without the valuable contributions of several departments across campus,” said Mikayla Tran, sustainability analyst at campus’s Office of Sustainability, in an email. “Yes, the score is well deserved & reflective of the amazing sustainability work done by students, faculty, and staff on our campus and throughout the UC system.”
STARS participants must report achievements in five overall areas: academics, operations, engagement, planning and administration and innovation and leadership, according to Tran.
This year’s score marks an improvement from UC Berkeley’s 2018 STARS results when the school earned a gold rating. The most current version of the system, STARS 2.2, has stricter criteria than STARS 2.1, which was the system in use during 2018, according to Tran.
“We feel that STARS is the most rigorous and comprehensive higher education sustainability assessment tool and, indeed, it has received multiple endorsements in the academic literature on sustainability assessment and reporting in higher education,” said Julian Dautremont, director of programs for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, in an email.
Dautremont added that while UC Berkeley’s platinum ranking is the highest rating afforded by the system, campus could still earn additional points to increase its score.
For example, the school could demonstrate its dedication to public service by developing a tracking system to record campus volunteering activity, thus increasing points in the STARS engagement portion, Tran said.
Furthermore, Tran said UC Berkeley could make improvements in the “Air & Climate” area of the report, where campus saw point reductions when compared to its 2018 results.
“UC Berkeley’s score in these categories, though, is comparable to other large urban research universities challenged with finding the space and funding for on-site renewable energy generation to meet a large share of campus energy needs,” Tran said in the email. “Despite the difficulties, the campus is focusing and planning for the wellbeing of the air and climate, and the decarbonization of the UC Berkeley energy system.”
The school did, however, maximize points in the “Student Educators Program” area, a portion of the STARS report that recognizes the breadth and scope of peer sustainability outreach and education initiatives offered to students on campus.
UC Berkeley’s 55 sustainability-related student organizations and general environmental advocacy contributed to the outstanding rating, according to Tran.
“Personally, I am most proud of our thriving student environmental community on campus,” Tran said.