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  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating Systemâ„¢ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Recognition & Scoring

Through participating in STARS, your institution can earn points toward a STARS Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum rating or earn recognition as a STARS Reporter.

Each level of recognition in STARS represents significant sustainability leadership. Unlike college and university rankings that publicize both high and low performers, STARS only provides positive recognition.

STARS Reporter

If your institution wishes to participate in STARS, but does not want to pursue a rating or make its scores public, you are invited to participate as a STARS Reporter. Recognition as a STARS Reporter is available at no cost and Reporters receive many of the same benefits as institutions that pursue a rating, including positive recognition for participation, the ability to share data publicly, and inclusion in the STARS Data Displays for benchmarking purposes.

Since STARS Reporter submissions are not scored or rated, some institutions use this option to report on a subset of credits, for example focusing only on selected impact areas like Energy, Waste and Water, and not pursuing credits in other areas. Regardless of whether you have basic or full access to the Reporting Tool, you will have the option to choose STARS Reporter status before finalizing your submission.

STARS Ratings

The table below summarizes the scoring thresholds corresponding with each STARS rating.

 STARS Rating

Minimum Score Required

 Bronze

25

 Silver

45

 Gold

65

 Platinum

85

Once submitted, your institution’s data and the level of recognition it has achieved will be valid for up to three years. You can resubmit as often as once a year, however, to earn a different level of recognition and/or ensure that your institution’s public data is current.

Scoring

An institution’s score is based on the percentage of points it earns by pursuing credits across four categories: Academics (AC), Engagement (EN), Operations (OP), and Planning & Administration (PA). 

Given the diversity of higher education institutions, some credits do not apply to all institutions. For example, the credits about dining services do not apply to institutions that do not have dining services operations. Institutions will earn a score based on the percentage of applicable points they earn. In other words, credits that do not apply to an institution are not counted against that institution’s overall score.

For example, the credits that are applicable to Model Community College total 180 points. The college earns 90 points (50% of available points), for a total score of 50, making Model Community College eligible for a STARS Silver rating.

Although all applicable credits count toward scoring, participants have the option to decide which credits to pursue and which not to pursue.

In addition to the credits in the four categories outlined above, institutions may earn up to four Innovation & Leadership points for new and path-breaking practices and performances that are not covered by other STARS credits or that exceed the highest criterion of a current STARS credit. Each earned Innovation & Leadership point increases an institution’s overall score by one point. The STARS Technical Manual outlines all of the credits and points available under the current version of STARS.

Point Allocation

Credits vary in the number of points they are worth. Points were allocated by a panel of STARS Steering Committee members and AASHE staff using the following considerations:

  1. To what extent does achievement of the credit ensure that people (students, employees and/or local community members) acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to meet sustainability challenges?
  2. To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to (a) human and ecological health and mitigate negative environmental impacts; (b) secure livelihoods, a sustainable economy and other positive financial impacts; and (c) social justice, equity, diversity, cooperation, democracy and other positive social impacts?
  3. To what extent are the positive impacts associated with achievement of the credit not captured in other STARS credits?

In addition, the number of points that are available for a credit may vary based on an institution’s context. This variability is linked to third-party reference standards or methodologies for evaluating the sustainability impact of the area being evaluated in the credit. 

As the above criteria indicate, the focus in allocating points is on the impact, not the difficulty, of earning each credit. Some sustainability initiatives may be very difficult to implement but yield negligible impacts. Conversely, some generally easier projects have significant impacts. Assigning points based on the difficulty of earning a credit would create a perverse incentive for institutions to focus on the difficult projects or initiatives, which may not have the most meaningful impact.