Whether you’re new to STARS and have just registered or are a returning participant, AASHE recommends taking a few steps before you dive into data documentation:
1. Review the menu of available credits in the Credit Checklist (available on the Technical Manual page), the online Reporting Tool and/or the current STARS Technical Manual. STARS participants pursue credits to assess their performance and can earn points toward a STARS Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum rating. Most credits may be completed with readily available data, however others may require more time to get organized (e.g. those that require the completion of an assessment or inventory).
2. Decide which credits you will likely be pursuing: Are there credits that don't apply to your institution? Are there credits that you are confident your institution will be able to earn?
Participants are not required to pursue all of the STARS credits that apply to their institution to earn a rating. If your institution would like to take a more incremental approach to reporting, here are two potential ways to think about doing that:
A. Set short, mid-range and long term goals in terms of the rating to be earned. For example, you could plan to earn a Bronze rating the first year by pursuing those credits that you think are already within reach. You could add a stretch goal of Silver if your team feels able to tackle some of the more time-consuming and heavily weighted credits and a long term goal of Gold. That would allow your institution to earn the "low hanging fruit" first, get data collection systems in place, and demonstrate real progress over time. Once you have reported on a credit once, it typically becomes much easier from that point on and you may only need to update your data from year to year.
B. Start with a set of subcategories that are particularly relevant to your institution (e.g. Curriculum, Grounds, Water, Diversity & Affordability). If you have a small team, this is one way to focus your effort, develop relationships with data providers, and avoid feeling too scattered at the outset. An added benefit of this approach is that AASHE's annual Sustainable Campus Index features leaders in each of the 17 subcategories, so focusing your efforts could earn public recognition that way in addition to the overall STARS rating.
3. Decide on an approach to data collection. There are several different approaches to collecting data for STARS; which option is best for your institution?
- The sustainability champion - a single energetic individual that leads the organization of STARS on their campus, including: data collection, documentation, submission, and post-submission marketing and communication.
- A sustainability office or committee - a group of diverse campus stakeholders that divide the data collection by the categories and subcategories of the STARS Technical Manual.
- STARS courses - usually lead by an enthusiastic faculty person, courses may be created to focus solely on STARS or STARS may be integrated into an existing course.
- Individual student projects - this option has taken different forms, such as a graduate student thesis project or the focus of a student intern for course credit.
- Other approaches? If your data collection strategy falls outside of these examples, please let us know via email@example.com.
4. Identify your data collection team and become familiar with the reporting process. You may add as many users as you wish to help document data in the Reporting Tool.
There are several different ways to share credits with data providers and de-centralize the reporting process (see our knowledge base article).
5. Review the requirements of the submission process. Be sure to let your institution's president, chancellor or other highest ranking executive know about your pending submission so that she or he can provide a cover letter for your submission.
Download a one page STARS flyer to share basic information about the program with campus stakeholders.
When working on a specific credit in the online Reporting Tool, there is a 'Resources' tab that includes shareable credit language, a data collection spreadsheet, tips and tools, and best practice examples from other institutions.
The STARS Technical Manual also includes credit and scoring examples for many credits. It may also be helpful to access other participants' reports or the Data Displays to see how other institutions have reported under the same version of STARS.
In addition, the 'My Resources' section of the online tool houses STARS seals, template press releases, and a comprehensive data tracking spreadsheet.
Sign up to stay in touch!
Subscribe to the STARS Update for periodic STARS news and tips: