Pacific is one of only a handful of universities across the country with an official sustainability rating.
Earlier this year in February, Pacific received a Bronze Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
“Ratings are a brand-new thing,” said Director of the Center for a Sustainable Society John Hayes. “Not many universities are rated, only about 100 out of the country’s 4,000 institutions were when we first submitted to STARS.”
STARS is a self-reporting tool that grades universities on three categories: Education & Research, Operations and Planning and Administration & Engagement. Pacific received 43.7, 18.81 and 37.63 points out of 100 in each category, respectively, for an averaged score of 36.38. The minimum total for Bronze is 25 points, but Pacific’s goal was Gold at a minimum of 65 points.
“The university had the notion that we’d get Gold based on our buildings, but we actually received no points for the six LEED-certified buildings we have because STARS only counts new construction from the past three years,” said Hayes. “That’s one of the things in the system I don’t like: LEED buildings should count indefinitely because they make a permanent difference in reducing the carbon footprint of campus.”
The Bronze rating is seen as a solid starting point, however.
“With STARS, there’s a template to work with and provide goals to work toward,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John Miller.
“I think STARS is the only system that allows for data on the whole university,” said Hayes. “It allows us to show ourselves and the outside world our commitment to sustainability.”
Hayes went on to emphasize that the system allows for a fine-grained analysis of whether the university is doing well or poor, though it is impossible to receive negative points.
Both agreed that there is plenty of room for improvement and showed optimism toward the university striving to be an example for other institutions.
“I think there’s a level beyond Gold and once we reach that goal, we really want to be exemplary among our peers,” said Miller.
“Ultimately, Pacific could get Platinum,” said Hayes. “I don’t think any institution has it, but Pacific could get it.”
The rating is good for three years, according to the website, however, an institution may submit for a new STARS rating as often as once per year, for an additional fee.
“I’m hoping we’ll be far enough along to submit sometime in the spring,” said Hayes,” but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Pacific’s report can be viewed online at https://stars.aashe.org/institutions/pacific-university-or/report/2012-02-17.