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Oberlin Earns Gold STARS Rating for Sustainability

Feb. 20, 2012

Amanda Nagy


Oberlin has earned a gold rating from the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a green-rating system created by sustainability directors and college administrators that aims to provide the most comprehensive and transparent approach to evaluating campus performance. Oberlin is just one of 30 schools to receive a gold rating, which is the highest level that has been achieved so far.

The self-assessment system is a new program from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education that measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. The STARS system is the only one of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in three areas: education and research, operations, and planning, administration and engagement.

Oberlin’s dedication to sustainability grows from the school’s historic role as a driver of social progress and its commitment to combating climate change. By committing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, Oberlin’s dedication to sustainability has become a central tenant of the college’s mission.

“Oberlin’s STARS Gold Rating reflects the diverse accomplishments of students, faculty, and staff toward our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025,” says Rob Lamppa, Oberlin’s director of sustainability and energy management. "The report is not an end but a beginning. It provides a roadmap for where Oberlin must aggressively focus its efforts as we continue working to increase the college’s sustainability.”

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, the STARS system is open to higher education institutions of all sizes in the United States and Canada, 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.

The comprehensive approach means that it goes beyond traditional measures, such as energy efficiency, to include broader issues, including sustainability in the curriculum; whether an institution pays its employees sustainable wages; and access programs and support for low-income and first-generation college students.

In addition to the environmental studies major, Oberlin offers an array of sustainability-focused and related courses throughout the college. Art, chemistry, economics, history, and politics are just some examples in which students can learn about the intersection between sustainability and their respective majors.

“That broad focus has helped us have conversations with offices and departments that may not have been involved in Oberlin’s sustainability goals in the past,” says Lamppa. “It’s good to know that we’re doing so well, but the STARS rating also helps us recognize areas where we need to be doing more.”

In Ohio, only two other schools have been rated. Cleveland State University received a silver rating, and the University of Dayton received bronze. Details about Oberlin’s gold rating and other institutions’ ratings can be found here.

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