A forward-thinking sustainability strategy, ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets and innovative clean energy projects have helped the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus earn the highest rating among Canadian universities for sustainability in the newest version of an internationally recognized rating system.
With its second consecutive Gold rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), an assessment tool developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), UBC achieved a score in the top 10 of all institutions currently rated under the latest version of STARS 2.0. Among universities with an enrolment of more than 30,000, UBC rated second-highest overall.
“I am delighted that UBC’s efforts in sustainability have once again been recognized at the highest level by STARS,” said Martha Piper, interim president of UBC. “This recognition is further proof of our commitment to leadership in global sustainability through groundbreaking research, education and innovative projects on campus.”
“This achievement is a result of our long-standing commitment to sustainability and efforts to transform our campus into a living laboratory where scholars, researchers and operations staff collaborate to address pressing global sustainability challenges,” said James Tansey, director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative.
To achieve its Gold rating, UBC, which launched Canada’s first sustainability office in 1997, was assessed across academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration. It also received the maximum available “innovation credits” for its initiatives, including a 20-year sustainability strategy, behavioural research in support of creating a zero-waste campus, UBC Farm’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and energy system upgrades to reduce UBC’s thermal energy use and GHG emissions.
“STARS provides a robust platform to measure our sustainability progress over time, assess gaps and opportunities to improve sustainability performance, and receive external recognition for sustainability efforts across campus,” said Michael White, associate vice-president of campus and community planning.
UBC offers over 600 sustainability-oriented courses and over 40 sustainability-related programs. Operationally, UBC remains on track to achieve the ambitious GHG emission reduction targets established in 2010 with the Vancouver Campus Climate Action Plan, which set targets to reduce emissions 33 per cent by 2015, 67 per cent by 2020, and 100 per cent by 2050, compared to 2007 levels.
For information about ongoing sustainability achievements and initiatives at UBC, visit sustain.ubc.ca
About STARS: STARS is a sustainability evaluation tool developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). With more than 650 participants on six continents, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
UBC Vancouver campus emission reductions: In 2013, UBC’s Vancouver campus emissions decreased 14 per cent from 2007 levels, despite an 11 per cent increase in building floor space and a 16 per cent increase in student enrolment. In 2014, UBC reached a reduction of 22 per cent over 2007 levels. Going forward, UBC will continue to embed sustainability across teaching, learning and research, operations and infrastructure, as well as community initiatives to address improvements in human and environmental wellbeing.
Highlights of UBC’s sustainability initiatives:
Twenty-Year Sustainability Strategy: In 2014, UBC completed a 20-year sustainability strategy for UBC’s Vancouver campus, which outlines a framework embedding next generation regenerative sustainability across teaching, learning, research, partnerships, operations and infrastructure, and the community.
Zero Waste Psychology Research: Innovative research conducted at UBC’s Brain and Attention Research (BAR) Lab in the Department of Psychology, in partnership with Metro Vancouver, was used to inform best practices in recycling signage to influence behaviour change, both on campus and across the Metro Vancouver region.
The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm: Integrating interdisciplinary academic, community, and production programs to explore and exemplify healthy and sustainable food systems, the centre engages 60,000 students, staff, faculty, volunteers, community members and visitors each year.
District Energy System Upgrades: UBC’s Academic District Energy System Steam to Hot Water Conversion Project will reduce UBC’s thermal energy use by 24 by per cent and GHG emissions by over 22 per cent, the equivalent of reducing 11,000 tonnes of GHG emissions, or taking 2,000 cars off the road.
UBC’s STARS sustainability achievements 2013/2014:
- 14 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, compared to 2007 levels
- 91 per cent of construction and demolition waste diverted from the landfill
- 46 per cent of institutional waste diverted from the landfill
- 636 courses include sustainability
- 444 faculty engaged in sustainability research
- 896 students, staff and faculty participants in Social, Ecological, Development Studies (SEEDS) sustainability research program
- 40 Greenest City Scholars projects completed in partnership with the City of Vancouver
- 94 per cent of cleaning products GreenSeal/EcoLogo certified
- 71 per cent of campus users take transit, walk, cycle, or carpool to campus