The University of Wisconsin was ranked last out of all Big Ten schools in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, announced Monday.
The STARS report has higher education institutions self-report sustainability scores in five categories using the STARS reporting template. The categories are academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration, with an opportunity for bonus points in innovation and leadership.
Some of the Big Ten reports are not up to date — the University of Minnesota’s most recent report is from 2015 and is considered expired by STARS.
Cara Nastali, a UW senior studying civil engineering and an executive board member of Campus Leaders for Energy Action Now, said this report is a good first step for UW.
“I hope that administrators can look at our numbers and compare it to other Big Ten schools and similar schools of our caliber and realize that maybe we’re not following the Wisconsin Idea, but I’m very hopeful that this will transpire into something and inspire the university to take similar steps,” Nastali said.
Plans to take part in the STARS report began in 2017 when UW decided to create and implement a campus-wide climate action plan. Collecting data for the report began in January of this year and required a team from UW’s Office of Sustainability to meet with over 150 staff, faculty and students, according to UW news.
Nathan Jandl, the assistant director of UW’s office of sustainability, said UW’s silver rating is common for a first STARS rating among schools that are a similar size as UW.
Many other Big Ten schools are on their second or third STARS report and the University of Illinois is on its fourth.
The report included 13 of the 14 official Big Ten schools, excluding Rutgers University. UW is one of the nine universities that has not signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
The ACUPCC is a commitment that presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities can sign, ensuring their schools take steps toward becoming more sustainable.
The Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Maryland and the University of Minnesota have all signed the ACUPCC, committing to becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2050.
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Nastali said the first step toward sustainability is making commitments like these before making a plan.
Jandl said he has not heard any plans for UW to sign the ACUPCC as Chancellor Blank is currently focused on moving forward with the results of the STARS report.
One step UW is taking is the formation of the Sustainability Advisory Council, a team that is comprised of campus groups and will help UW administration follow the STARS suggestions, Jandl said.
“This is a great example of working across campus to achieve a a sustainability goal,” Jandl said.
Nastali said while this council is a good step she would like to see more student involvement.
Going forward, Nastali said UW cannot just rely on its past environmentalism and it must educate students on UW’s current sustainability.
“There’s a long history of environmentalism on this campus so I think people automatically assume that we’re doing better than we actually are,” Nastali said. “I think the STARS report is an incredible step because it’s actually pretty transparent where before the information was difficult to find.”