AU is currently considered the greenest university in the country, according to a recent sustainability rating.
AU scored the highest in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the first of 33 universities to achieve gold status.
STARS examines social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability. Universities independently reported their STARS score and were then compared to other institutions to see how they stand.
“We weren’t chosen by anyone as a green university,” said Chris O’Brien, AU’s director of the Office of Sustainability. “We reported our own activities based on that standardized set of criteria and based on using that tool, our score allowed us to earn the STARS gold rating.”
For the moment, AU has the highest score out of 33 universities, but there are hundreds more schools that will use the STARS system over the next year, O’Brien said. Over 240 higher education institutions have registered to use STARS.
“I don’t want to overstate the case,” he said. “But at the same time, we are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.”
AU has built sustainability into the fabric of the administration, according to O’Brien. AU has strong human and economic factors of sustainability, not just environmental.
Among some of AU’s sustainability measures are the Green Eagles Program, a focus on carbon neutrality and zero waste, alternative transportation, the dining services and sustainable food options and incorporating LEED as a guiding set of standards.
“We have a tremendous number of courses and degrees that address or incorporate sustainability issues,” he said. “We now have on our website a list of all the courses available that have a sustainability component, and likewise we have a list of all the faculty research that’s being conducted that has sustainability elements in it.”
O’Brien said there is more work to be done. He hopes to expand the Green Eagle program to reach more students and include faculty and staff, and he hopes to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce waste and water usage.
By the end of this summer, AU will have incorporated two large solar installations on its campus.
“We will by the end of summer have the two largest solar installations in the Washington area,” O’Brien said. “And the solar hot water installation, we’re told, might be the largest urban solar hot water system on the East Coast.”