How should we approach the reporting process?

As you start the reporting process, it is helpful to keep the following questions in mind.

Which credits should we pursue?

Use the Credit Checklist to review available credits:

  • Are there credits that don’t apply to your institution?
  • Are there credits that you are confident you will be able to earn?
  • Are there credits that your institution is not ready to pursue right now?

Most credits may be completed with readily available data, however some credits require the completion of an assessment or inventory. For example, the Academic Courses credit requires an inventory of the institution’s sustainability course offerings. The process of completing these assessments can have enormous value in terms of setting baselines and identifying opportunities for improvement, but it can also take some time. It is therefore helpful to plan an approach to these credits early on in the process.

How do we go about collecting the data?

STARS requests data that will need to be sourced from diverse departments across campus. This process helps build relationships and also encourages staff members and faculty to better understand the role their departments can play in building institutional sustainability. Locating the departments and individuals that have the information you need can involve some detective work, so allow time to “map” where sustainability data live on campus.

There are several different approaches to collecting data for STARS. Which option(s) make the most sense for your institution? Can multiple options be employed?  

  • The sustainability champion – a single energetic individual who leads the process.
  • A sustainability office or committee – a group of diverse campus stakeholders that each take responsibility for coordinating data collection for specific subcategories or credits.
  • Student projects – for example, STARS could be a thesis project for a graduate student or the focus of student interns for course credit.
  • STARS courses – usually led by an enthusiastic faculty person, courses may be created to focus solely on STARS or STARS may be integrated into an existing course.  
  • A distributed model – for example, give staff, students and other data providers direct access to the Reporting Tool and/or other collaborative tools.

Do we have administrative support?

Executive support can often streamline the data collection process. A memo from the president, chancellor, or other administrator to faculty and staff requesting support for the STARS data collection process, or an email request for sustainability data copied to or co-signed by a provost or other executive can serve as important encouragement for data providers to participate. Please also note that every scored STARS Report must be accompanied by a cover letter from a high-ranking executive.

How do we stay organized?

Because STARS is comprehensive, it is important to have a system in place to manage the data collection process. Some institutions manage the process in the Reporting Tool itself, while others use tools like collaborative Google Sheets to assign credits and track progress (access templates on the STARS website). Deciding on an approach to managing data collection and tracking progress in advance will help keep you focused and on schedule.

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