Eastern Connecticut State University awarded first gold rating

Dec. 12—WILLIMANTIC — In recognition of its sustainability work, Eastern Connecticut State University has been awarded its first gold rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Eastern's rating, which is based on the Sustainable Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), is valid through 2025.

It is one of only three gold ratings in the state and one of 138 colleges and universities nationwide to receive the ranking.

"I am very proud of Eastern's sustainable leadership and accomplishments," Eastern President Elsa Nunez said in a press release issued by the university. "While there is much work ahead, we have made good progress and will continue to increase the integration of sustainability into our curriculum, enhance campus and community engagement, and improve efficiencies and carbon-free initiatives in our operations."

The rating system is a self-reporting system used by colleges and universities to measure their sustainable performance in various areas, including academics, operations, innovation and leadership, among others.

The lowest ranking is " reporter," followed by " bronze," then " silver," then " gold," and, finally, " platinum." Yale University in New Haven and Connecticut College in New London were also awarded the gold ranking. According to a press release from Eastern, Eastern's latest report was reviewed by sustainability specialists at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University in Middletown before it was submitted to STARS.

In addition to the recognition by STARS, Eastern was recently selected as one of 455 colleges included in Princeton Review's green colleges guide, an achievement it earned for the 13th year.

Eastern is engaged in several sustainable initiatives under the leadership of Nunez, who became president in 2016. That includes the university's revision of its Climate Action Plan and pledge to become neutral by 2030. The university was also recognized for improving emissions inventory and greenhouse gas reporting, use of native plants and maintaining forested space and for serving foods that are locally-sourced and its composting program, among other work.

Eastern scored highly in the engagement category for its survey concerning sustainability culture on campus and scored highly in the academics category for having 20 percent of its courses deal with sustainability concepts, as well as having 35 percent of research faculty conducting sustainability research.

"STARS provides a mechanism by which Eastern can prioritize actions to improve sustainable practices across all sectors of campus," Patricia Szczys, Executive Director of the Institute of Sustainability at Eastern, said in the press release. " This achievement is the result of efforts of the entire community."

She said after achieving gold, the bar is " set high" for Eastern's next STARS submission.

Follow Michelle Warren on Twitter — @mwarrentc.