Several SC colleges lauded for environmental sustainability. Only one gets ‘gold’ rank

·2 min read

With climate change provoking ever-deadlier natural disasters and the Earth’s ongoing, human-made mass extinction, it is easy to feel hopeless about the earth’s growing pollution problem.

But several South Carolina universities aren’t willing to give up that easy.

Four colleges throughout the state have received awards for taking steps toward a more environmentally sustainable future.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, awards platinum, gold, silver or bronze medals to colleges throughout the country based on their eco-friendly practices. The awards are called STARS awards, which stands for Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.

Colleges receive points for conducting sustainability research, banning single-use plastics, teaching students about the environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, erecting energy-efficient buildings, reducing water waste and more. The awards are based on self-reported information.

The only S.C. institution of higher learning to earn a gold medal was Furman University, a private college in Greenville. Clemson University, College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina all received silver medals.

“Achieving a STARS gold rating means that sustainability is intertwined in everything we do at Furman, from academics and engagement to operations and administration,” Laura Bain, Furman’s lead sustainability officer, said in a news release.

Of 676 universities that received medals, only 11 universities on the list attained the coveted platinum medal. The universities that received medals are located in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and more.

Furman, which is home to the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities, earned points toward its gold by recycling wastewater, increasing the amount of waste the university recycles and composts, using geothermal energy to heat dorms, replacing plastic straws with paper straws and running a program that weatherizes houses for local, low-income families, according to Furman’s self-reported information.

The other S.C. schools that earned medals also had standout programs.

  • USC earned points for making available a variety of vegetarian and vegan food at every residential dining hall on campus and for recycling.

  • Clemson received points for maintaining a 17,500-acre forest it uses for research.

  • College of Charleston received points for providing $15,000 annually to fund sustainability research.

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