Western looks to the STARS and strikes Gold

Western looks to the STARS and strike Gold

By Liz McGinley

The Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) awarded Western a gold rating for its sustainability efforts on campus. The university is one of three in Canada with a gold rating under STARS 2.0, the most recent version of the system. Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria join Western on the podium with a gold rating.

The achievement is an improvement from Western’s Silver ranking in 2011.

“I’m very happy, actually. It was a goal of mine for Western to achieve STARS gold,” said Beverley Ayeni, Facilities Management energy and environment manager. “I knew we could definitely get to silver, but becoming a gold rated institution was a welcomed accomplishment and a testament to the great sustainability work being done on campus.”

In 2011, Western scored 52 per cent of the required credits in the rating system, earning silver. Every three years, organizations can submit a report to STARS.

Western’s 2014 submission received 67 per cent of credits, narrowly entering into a gold rating, which requires 65 per cent. Ayeni said the university’s 15-point improvement comes from collaboration by faculties and units from all across campus, as well as a more engaged student population. 

She cited the Green Campus Series, a green education program that provides students with knowledge and experience using the campus as a living case study. Four modules offer students a unique exposure to the university’s environmental sustainability initiatives. Students attain practical knowledge on topics including green buildings, energy and water efficiency, habitat protection, and responsible landscape management practices through a presentation and corresponding campus tour. 

With more collaboration and understanding of STARS, maintaining a sustainable environment on campus has become a university-wide initiative. Western scored perfectly in the area of the report dedicated to the proportion of faculty involved in sustainability research.

One of Western’s sustainability goals is to decrease its main campus direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on its 2009 levels. In its 2011 STARS submission, Western’s GHC levels had not decreased in the previous five years, but instead had increased by 13 per cent. In its most recent STARS submission, Western has greatly improved, reducing its emissions by almost 12 per cent despite significant infrastructure growth on campus, earning more credits with STARS.

A gold rating may seem like Western can’t aim any higher, but even at the top, there is still room for improvement. Ayeni cited sustainable investments and integrating sustainability into the curriculum as potential areas of improvement.

In fact, available credits to earn also filter into the classroom. Only 6 per cent of courses offered by the school involve sustainability, but in order to achieve full credits in this category, 20 per cent of courses must focus on or relate to sustainability.

“STARS is a very extensive survey, and there are still many credits left to achieve. We look forward to improving our sustainability efforts year over year, and submitting another comprehensive application in 2017,” Ayeni said.