UWM receives STARS Gold Rating for sustainability

UWM has earned a STARS Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in recognition of its continued sustainability efforts. 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.

It’s also 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.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said Meghan Fay Zahniser, AASHE executive director. “The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

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.

A complete report of UWM’s current rating can be found on the STARS website.