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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, an institution can earn points toward a STARS Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating, or earn recognition as a STARS Reporter. STARS only provides positive recognition. Each STARS seal represents significant sustainability leadership.

To earn recognition, participating institutions must publicly share their current sustainability information as documented in the STARS Reporting Tool.

STARS Reporter

If an institution does not want to pursue a rating or make its scores public, it can submit as a STARS Reporter to share its accomplishments and have the institution’s data included in the STARS Data Displays for benchmarking purposes. Recognition as a STARS Reporter is available at no cost using the basic access option. An institution with full access subscription may also opt to submit as an unrated Reporter.

STARS Ratings

The table below summarizes the minimum overall score required for each STARS rating:

 STARS Rating

Minimum Score Required

 Bronze

25

 Silver

45

 Gold

65

 Platinum

85


Scoring

An institution’s score is based on the percentage of points it earns by pursuing relevant credits across four main 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, institutions may earn up to four Innovation & Leadership points for exemplary and path-breaking initiatives that are not covered by other STARS credits or that exceed the highest criterion of a standard credit. To earn these “bonus points”, an institution can choose from a catalog of exemplary practice credits and/or pursue open-ended innovation credits.

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.