UT Austin again earns global recognition for sustainability efforts

As The University of Texas at Austin continues its work toward a greener campus, it is being globally recognized for its efforts. 

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded UT Austin with its second consecutive STARS Gold rating. The university first earned this prestigious achievement in 2020.

The Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS) recognizes colleges and universities across the globe for their sustainability efforts, with more than 900 participating institutions in 40 countries. UT Austin has been a charter member of the program since 2009.

“We’ve been involved in the STARS program for a very long time,” said Director of Sustainability Jim Walker. “We continue to be interested in tracking and measuring our efforts and putting ourselves out there to be benchmarked with our peer institutions.”

Participants in the STARS program report on sustainability performance in four major categories: academics, engagement, operations, and planning. UT Austin performed best in the academics category, which also saw its largest score increase from 2020. The chart below from the Office of Sustainability illustrates how the university has improved in each category since 2018.

The STARS gold rating recognition comes on the heels of significant operational steps and achievements that have taken place at the university over the past couple years. Facility Services groups, namely Landscape Services and Resource Recovery, saw no drop-off in their sustainability efforts through the COVID-10 pandemic—a testament to their adaptability and commitment to our community. And, earlier this year, UT Austin was named a Silver Level Bike Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists, thanks to hard work put in by Parking and Transportation Services.

On the academics side, the university launched two new environmentally-focused minor degrees this fall semester – Leadership in Global Sustainability and Sustainable Energy.  This addresses the growing demand from an increasing number of incoming UT Austin students interested in having sustainability be a part of their future careers, according to a survey launched in Fall 2021.

“To me, the STARS gold rating demonstrates FAS’s core values of stewardship, teamwork, and innovation,” Walker said. “Stewardship—the idea of caring for and conserving—is arguably the base definition of sustainability and the efforts surrounding our goals. Teamwork is exhibited in business units across campus—Landscape Services, Resource Recovery, Utilities & Energy Management, University Housing and Dining, Document Solutions, and many more—working together to implement sustainable solutions for an ever-changing campus. And innovation is reflected in how all these units continually assess the impacts of their activities and how they can deliver that activity with a lighter environmental footprint and a greater social impact.”