Warren Wilson receives STARS gold rating for sustainability

Press release from Warren Wilson College: 

Warren Wilson College has earned a STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.

STARS measures more than 1,000 individual data points— from diversity, equity and inclusion to environmental stewardship, social justice and economic practices.

“Sustainability is woven into the fabric of Warren Wilson College, embedded in our mission and strategic imperatives,” said Dr. Lynn Morton, president of Warren Wilson College. “Achieving this milestone reveals the depth of our commitment, campus-wide, to just and sustainable practices.”

This is the first time in several years that the college has been honored with a Gold rating in the STARS program. The report highlighted several recent areas of progress for the college: the divestment of endowment funds from fossil fuels, the conversion of the campus fleet to alternative fuels, and the new land innovation program to model conservation and climate action on the college’s land.

“We’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent in the past five years, and we divert two-thirds of our waste from the landfill. That’s fantastic,” said Margo Flood, sustainability project coordinator at Warren Wilson College. “We’re being good citizens of the planet, which is deeply gratifying to us, and speaks to our mission. Sustainability is so ingrained into who we are as a college that it’s taken on a life of its own.”

The STARS report also recognized Warren Wilson for its commitment to community engagement, shared governance structure, sustainable dining, practices of conducting species inventories on campus, the number of academic courses that include sustainability content, and the recently completed project that restored campus streams back to their original meanders and natural courses.

The college’s Civic Identity Model, a framework of outcomes designed to prepare students to become engaged citizens dedicated to fostering a just, equitable and sustainable world, received recognition in the innovation category. Using the Civic Identity model, the college integrates civic engagement into all aspects of its students’ learning experiences, including classrooms, work (Warren Wilson College is one of nine federally designated Work Colleges), and service opportunities. The report also highlighted  the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Warren Wilson College has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, the STARS program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: 1) academics 2) engagement, 3) operations, 4) planning and administration, and 5) innovation and leadership.

Warren Wilson College’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website.

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