Pioneering clean energy projects, an aggressive carbon-reduction strategy and North America’s greenest building have helped the University of British Columbia to garner Canada’s first gold rating in a new international program that assesses sustainability achievements in higher education.
A gold rating is the highest achieved to date in STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System), a sustainability evaluation tool developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), with broad participation from the higher education community through self-reporting.
To date, 117 institutions – including eight of 22 participating Canadian universities – have received ratings, such as the University of Ottawa, the University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University and Dalhousie University. STARS inaugural ratings are currently scheduled to be completed in August 2012, although institutions can register to be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
“I am pleased to see our sustainability leadership recognized by STARS, which offers an important new tool for measuring sustainability performance in higher education,” says Prof. Stephen J. Toope, UBC President. “This achievement is due to the passion and innovation of UBC’s community, which is transforming our university into a living laboratory where scholars, researchers and operations staff collaborate to address global sustainability problems.”
STARS is the only program of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Unlike other rating or ranking systems, STARS is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a rating are transparent and publically accessible. STARS ratings are valid for three years, but institutions may submit for new ratings as often as once per year.
UBC’s score places it among North America’s top-five most sustainable universities both among institutions with 30,000-60,000 students and universities ranked in the recent Times Higher Education rankings. Out of 264 North American institutions that have registered to participate in STARS to date, 22 institutions have achieved a gold rating.
UBC’s STARS rating was based on the performance of its Vancouver campus in three categories: Education and Research, Operations, and Planning, Administration and Engagement. The university’s score received the maximum-available “innovation credits” for four initiatives:
- Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability: $37-million centre, expected to be North America’s greenest building when it officially opens in November, will be a hub for research and action on the world’s most-pressing sustainability issues.
- Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Project: $27-million, first-of-its-kind project to generate energy for the campus from biomass such as wood chips and beetle-killed pine when it opens in 2012.
- UBC Sustainability Initiative, which works collaboratively to integrate UBC’s academic and operational efforts in sustainability
- Greenest City Scholars Program, an innovative program that sponsors 10 UBC graduate students to work with the City of Vancouver each summer to help meet the university’s and the city’s environmental goals
In 2010, UBC announced some of the most aggressive carbon-reduction targets among the world’s top 40 universities. These include a reduction of institutional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2007 levels by 33 per cent by 2015, 67 per cent by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2050. UBC academic buildings exceeded Kyoto Protocol targets by 2007, despite a 48 per cent increase in enrollment and 35 per cent increase in size.
AASHE, an association of more than 250 colleges and universities, is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sustainability among higher education institutions. For more information, visit: https://stars.aashe.org.
Learn more at www.sustain.ubc.ca.
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UBC SUSTAINABILITY BACKGROUNDER:
2010/11 sustainability highlights:
- UBC’s GHG emissions decreased 7 per cent from 2005-2010 during a time when campus population increased 26 per cent
- 65 per cent of campus users take transit, carpool, cycle or walk to campus
- 42 per cent of institutional waste diverted from the landfill
- 86 per cent of construction and demolition waste diverted from the landfill
- 42 per cent reduction in water consumption from 2005 baseline per weighted campus user
- More than 350 courses and 25 academic programs in sustainability
- 304 faculty and 57 departments engaged in sustainability research
- More than 7,000 students engaged in sustainability through residence programs
Other ongoing UBC sustainability initiatives:
Hot water conversion project: $85-million project to reduce Vancouver campus energy use by 24 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by 22 per cent.
UBC Clean Energy Research Centre: Created in 2000, this centre offers a Masters in Clean Energy Engineering and works closely with other faculties and industry partners.
UBC Renew: A more than $120-million cost-sharing partnership with the BC Government to modernize historic buildings at UBC.
Continuous Optimization: A UBC project, in partnership with BC Hydro, to reduce energy use in 72 core academic buildings by 10 per cent (below 2007 levels) by 2015.
Past UBC sustainability achievements:
- Launched Canada’s first university sustainability office in 1997
- Canada’s first university to meet Kyoto Protocol targets
- Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus
- Pioneered the U-Pass student transit pass in 1997, which increased ridership by more than 230 per cent
- Completed the largest energy retrofit of its kind in Canada (ECOTrek), saving $4-million in annual energy costs and 8,000 tonnes of GHGs
- Faculty members co-authored the “ecological footprint” measurement tool in 1996 and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore as members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Home to green buildings, including CK Choi Building, the Life Sciences Centre, the Fred Kaiser Building and Liu Institute for Global Issues