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Sept. 07, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

Green efforts earn SRU Silver STARS

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has made the green honor roll, moving up from a Bronze to Silver ranking in the new Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System.

STARS, developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, is a self-reporting framework that enables institutions to measure their sustainability performance. SRU's overall ranking increased from 44.33 to 49.81.

"STARS has become the benchmark for evaluating campus sustainability," said Herb Carlson, SRU assistant vice president for construction design and management and the University's sustainability officer. "Our ongoing sustainability and reporting of sustainability on campus is global in perspective. There are a lot of people involved and a lot of different aspects of it."

Paul Rowland, executive director of AASHE, said the rankings represent a comprehensive review of campus sustainability and factor more than 100 criteria. They include curriculum, operations, buildings, energy consumption, purchasing, transportation and dining services.

"The purpose of having schools engaging in STARS is to see how they are doing and see if they can do better," Rowland said. "When a school makes a leap forward like this, it shows that they're taking the data seriously. Schools usually use the data to make decisions to improve in ways that are measurable. Having measured itself, Slippery Rock University is moving forward in sustainability and getting results."

The STARS rating is valid for three years, although AASHE encourages participants to participate annually. Nationwide, 213 colleges and universities participated in this year's STARS rankings. One hundred institutions received Silver rankings, while 37 qualified for Gold.

Rowland said STARS is designed to not only build a stronger, more diverse campus community but to facilitate sharing about higher education sustainability practices.

Carlson said SRU earned the Silver this year for its ongoing sustainability initiatives and more thorough reporting. "We were fairly close to Silver when we first applied, so we were already in fairly good shape. We just pushed it over the edge, so to speak," he said.

The STARS ranking complements SRU's release of a Climate Action Plan that provides a blueprint for reducing greenhouse gases and achieving climate neutrality in 25 years or less.

The action plan provides a roadmap for climate neutrality within the framework of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment program. Cheryl Norton, SRU president, approved the Climate Action Plan for submission to ACUPCC.

"Reaching for 2025 and Beyond," the University's long-range strategic plan, identifies sustainability as an institutional cornerstone. Approved by cabinet in 2010, the plan paves the way for continued integration of sustainability into the fabric of the University and argues that education can lead to behavioral change for generations to come.

The University has implemented a number of sustainability initiatives in recent years to reduce environmental impact and save in utility costs. They include a student-led Green Fund initiative, motion-detector lights in buildings, sleep-mode settings for computers and new residence halls that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified.

Another initiative with widespread application is the SRU Energy Pledge, which asks students, faculty and staff to take small steps to reduce consumption. Steps include shutting down your computer and taking the stairs as opposed to an elevator when possible.

Earlier this year, SRU completed construction of a baghouse for the coal-fired boiler plant. The pollution control system reduces coal emissions and greenhouse gases. The system reduces particulates from the exhaust that comes from the boilers. The University has also installed energy-saving lights in the residence halls.

Other measures include the use of recyclable greenware options in the dining halls and trayless Tuesday to cut down on energy usage.

SRU's greening leadership has been recognized nationally. The Princeton Review included SRU in its "Guide to 286 Green Colleges" that have shown an above average commitment to sustainability.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.