Thanks to its continued sustainability efforts, UWM has earned a STARS Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. This marks the second gold rating UWM has received and the third rating overall, with a gold rating in 2016 and a silver in 2013.
More than 800 participants in 30 countries submit their universities to be evaluated by AASHE’s STARS program, or the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. The program measures and encourages sustainability from all areas of higher education institutions. Participants report on achievements in academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation.
“It is by far the standard for any university to use STARS, to be a part of it,” said Kate Nelson, chief sustainability officer at UWM.
As STARS ratings are given every three years, the program allows the university to compare its efforts from previous years and evaluate itself accordingly, said John Gardner, program and policy analyst for the Office of Sustainability.
“Its highlight is as a benchmarking tool to use internally, to say ‘how are we doing, can we do some things better, what do we excel at?’” he said.
Since the 2016 gold rating, the university has increased its efforts on water management and research. In the spring of 2019, the Office of Sustainability teamed up with the School of Freshwater Sciences and the Alliance for Water Stewardship to offer the first university-level water stewardship planning course that applies the rigorous Alliance for Water Stewardship standards to a university building. Students in the class researched the School of Freshwater Sciences’ water usage and water risks and then devised a water stewardship plan for the building according to the Alliance for Water Stewardship standards.
The university has also ramped up its research and management of stormwater, which Nelson said also contributed to UWM achieving another gold rating.
Overall, however, Nelson and Gardner attribute UWM’s continued success to the maintenance of the projects it has started over the years.
“The bulk, I would say, of the work of this office is supporting our grounds department to continue natural lawn care, to continue having gardens that are applicable to students, faculty, staff and research, maintaining our green infrastructure on our campus that’s for stormwater management,” Nelson said. “The national ratings are important, but we know to put our efforts into what this campus needs.”
A complete report of UWM’s current rating can be found on the STARS website.