UCR receives STARS Gold rating for wellbeing and climate action

The recognition comes from Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

November 10, 2021
Author: Sandra Baltazar Martinez
November 10, 2021

UC Riverside has earned three top 10 rankings along with an overall gold award for its sustainability efforts. 

The recognition of its sustainability achievements comes from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE. In a 2021 Sustainable Campus Index report released on Nov. 8, AASHE recognized top-performing colleges and universities overall by institution type and in 17 sustainability areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS. STARS is a voluntary framework used by colleges and universities all over the world to measure, report, and strengthen their contributions to global sustainability. 

To receive a STARS rating, institutions considered were those with valid reports submitted between September 2017 and March 2021.  

“The recognition of UCR in the Sustainability Climate Index showcases the strides that the campus has made in pushing sustainability and climate action to the forefront,” said Fortino Morales III, UCR’s sustainability officer with the Office of Sustainability. “Students have made advances through their advocacy and involvement, staff have implemented critical changes in campus operations, and faculty are leading innovative research projects.”

UCR’s awards:
  • Overall STARS Gold award
  • Top 10: UCR was ranked No. 7 when it comes to sustainable investment and finance
  • Top 10: UCR’s water use reduction and rainwater management gave UCR a perfect score and was in the top 24 colleges and universities
  • Top 10: When it comes to wellbeing and work, UCR was recognized for student and employee wellness programs and employee compensation, satisfaction, health and safety.

The accolades also come with special recognition for UCR’s R’Garden. In an institutional highlight, AASHE emphasizes R’Garden’s solar greenhouses or “pinkhouses,” which capture solar energy through an off-grid, rooftop array, making greenhouse operation more energy efficient. The report also applauded R’Garden’s crucial role in providing fresh produce to more than 1,200 students during the first few months of the campus closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The institutional highlight is a recognition selected by a team of AASHE staff based on the level of innovation and overall impact in advancing sustainability, potential for replicability and the added impacts this would present.

“The R’Garden’s feature as an Institutional Highlight in this year’s report speaks to the role that spaces like the garden provide to students in times of need, both in terms of nourishment, but also in being able to enjoy time outside and away from a computer screen,” Morales said. “The goal of the R’Garden has always included both learning to grow in a sustainable manner and working to address the very real need of our students and the broader community. I hope others are inspired to start or expand their own campus, community, or home gardens.”

With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics; engagement; operations; planning and administration and innovation and leadership. 

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “UC Riverside has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

UCR’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website: www.aashe.org

The commitment toward a more sustainable campus is never-ending. UCR’s Office of Sustainability is hosting a virtual panel on Nov. 16 for the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021, led by three UCR professors.