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Furman’s green goals gain gold from STARS

WIldflowers bloom on the Furman campus.
Wildflowers bloom on the Furman campus.
The Gold STARS medal from AASHE
The Gold STARS medal from AASHE

For the third time in a row, Furman University has earned a Sustainable Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), ranking among the top three baccalaureate schools in the United States.

The STARS Program is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. AASHE grades schools in 18 categories, including curriculum, research, campus and community engagement and operations.

Overall, Furman earned its highest-yet score of 77.02 to earn gold status, which will be valid through 2024.

More than 1,000 institutions – mostly in North America with a few in other continents – have registered to use the STARS reporting tool, of which 672 have earned a bronze, silver, gold or platinum rating.

Laura Bain

“Achieving a STARS Gold rating means that sustainability is intertwined in everything we do at Furman, from academics and engagement to operations and administration,” says Laura Bain ’02, associate director of sustainability assessment at The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities. “We use this comprehensive reporting framework to highlight our successes and identify our shortfalls. Because it is an open reporting platform, it allows us to learn from our peer institutions and ask for help in solving our sustainability challenges.”

Bain says the reporting is a lengthy task, an extensive team effort that requires the input and cooperation of almost every department on campus. But she adds that the results are rewarding – in many ways.

“Completing a STARS report is a monthslong process and depends upon the willingness of my colleagues to share data and insight into their work,” she says. “To me, the relationships that are forged during the data-gathering process are as important as earning a great rating.”

Furman has received five STARS ratings since 2011, beginning with two silver awards and earning its first of three golds in 2015.

It takes an entire campus community to bring home the gold, says Bain.

“Sustainability requires a common vision,” she says, “and the Shi Institute is creating opportunities for realizing that vision together and is leading Furman toward a more sustainable future.

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