Chancellor White at STORCCSU Chancellor Timothy P. White visits Sac State's Sustainable Technology Optimization Research Center in May. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Related story: Sac State receives $80,000 CSU Campus as a Living Lab grant

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has awarded Sacramento State a Gold rating, putting it in elite company among the 650 colleges and universities on six continents that voluntarily report to STARS, the association’s sustainability tracking system.

Sac State’s score is 72.18 out of a possible 100 points. Only one school has earned Platinum, the highest rating.

“It’s currently the highest (score) in the California State University and surpasses some of our ‘neighbors’ in the University of California system, and Santa Clara University,” says Sac State sustainability manager Ryan Todd.

STARS (the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) is a transparent, self-reporting framework that allows colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance and compare it with other institutions. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability movement.

Sacramento State’s application was eight months in the making and required input from faculty and staff across campus, along with members of the Sac State Sustainability team.

The result was a 273-page online document detailing the University’s efforts to support ecological balance. Sac State earned points in four overall areas: operations, academics, engagement, and planning and administration. Earned innovation credits were added to the final percentage, determining the total STARS score.

“It was a grueling process,” Todd says, “and the rating reflects everyone’s hard work. Completing the STARS report gives our University a baseline for sustainability in every facet of the campus, from the courses being taught to the buildings the students study in. Once we have determined a baseline, we know which areas have the greatest opportunity for improvement. The STARS report also will help us meet the goals of the Climate Leadership network.”

As a part of Sac State’s Earth Day 2016 celebration, President Robert S. Nelsen signed Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, joining other university and college presidents around the country who have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.

“At Sacramento State, we promote the highest standards of environmental stewardship,” Nelsen says. “Our mission supports leadership for sustainability as we continue to explore opportunities and new initiatives through innovative and collaborative means. The STARS assessment provides a framework for Sacramento State’s ongoing efforts to strengthen our sustainability achievements.”

AASHE gave Sac State excellent ratings for campus engagement, curriculum, and research, and the organization awarded full points for innovation, citing the aquaponics and other work underway at STORC (the Sustainable Technology Optimization Research Center), along with the refillable propane tank program, and the medications disposal bin at The WELL’s pharmacy.

Sac State was the first school in the nation to institute Refuel Your Fun (propane refilling) and the first in California with a pharmaceutical take-back program.

For more on Sacramento State Sustainability: – Dixie Reid