For the first time in campus history, SUNY New Paltz has earned a STARS Gold Rating for excellence in sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
New Paltz becomes just the second comprehensive university in the SUNY System to earn a Gold Rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).
“I often hear my colleagues at SUNY meetings say just how far ahead of the curve SUNY New Paltz is in comparison to their campuses,” said Vice President for Administration & Finance Michele Halstead. “We are now a Bee Campus USA and a Tree Campus USA; we have hydration stations and mostly aluminum canned beverages; our partners at Campus Auxiliary Services and the SUNY New Paltz Foundation have divested from fossil fuels; we have EV charging stations, a sustainability-infused curriculum and so much more.”
New Paltz first achieved a STARS Silver Rating in 2015 and was then approved for renewal in 2018. The increased Gold Rating represents significant gains that the University has achieved across multiple criteria, many of which are led by the Office of Campus Sustainability and aimed at inviting all members of the campus community to participate in activities related to environmental protection and justice.
The recognition as a STARS Gold campus owes to a series of significant initiatives in recent years. Among the most successful has been the large and growing Sustainability Faculty Learning Community, which was established in 2016 to build a network of colleagues across ranks and disciplines. The Community’s 80+ academic and faculty members have led major efforts to embed sustainability content and practices into curricula across disciplines, developing new courses and revising existing courses to integrate relevant sustainability content and themes for students.
The Sustainability Ambassador program similarly invites contributions from student leaders, who work as a team to advance initiatives like advocacy for more plant-based proteins and more reusable materials in campus dining, applying for the Bike Friendly University recognition, advocating for the installation of microplastic filters in residence hall laundry rooms, and promoting campus and local free food resources. The fall 2023 cohort of 36 student Sustainability Ambassadors is the largest yet in the eight years since the program was founded.
The STARS methodology measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education by evaluating institutions across five broad categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, Planning & Administration, and Innovation & Leadership.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “SUNY New Paltz has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”