UMass Boston

UMass Boston Earns Silver STARS Rating for Sustainability Achievements

02/14/2024| Danielle Bilotta

UMass Boston recently earned a silver Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The STARS system is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance based on environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability.

UMass Boston aerial shot of solar panels

The STARS score is based on points earned across four main categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. According to UMass Boston Sustainability and Resiliency Planner Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, the scores will be used as a benchmark for future integrated sustainability initiatives.

There were several projects that contributed to the silver rating such as the campus being used as a living laboratory for applied student learning through the UMass Boston Professional Apprenticeship Career Experience (PACE), which allows students to have hands-on experience in a variety of areas, including sustainability. Students interns through the PACE program conducted part of the STARS campus research and as of the fall 2023 semester, the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee created three task forces to expand the number of living laboratory, curricular offerings, and campus engagement activities.

Developing new and innovative programs for staff, faculty, and students to take part in sustainability efforts across UMass Boston is a strong focus moving forward, but there are other areas of interest that addressed operational environmental goals. For example, UMass Boston’s Facilities Department currently uses environmentally responsible landscaping practices, which includes organic fertilizers and native plants. As part of the new campus quad opening in the spring, more native plants will start blooming and sustainably designed water retention systems are utilized.

“We are proud of our first STARS report earning a silver level rating”, said Kathleen Kirleis, vice chancellor for administration and finance. “This effort represents hard work across UMass Boston in both data collection and program implementation. Building energy efficiency efforts and our Solar Plus Storage Project are reducing our energy costs and reliance on fossil fuels while expanding resiliency during peak energy use times. Consistent with our mission of teaching, research, and service for the greater good, UMass Boston will continue taking steps to address the topics tracked in STARS for a sustainable and climate-resilient campus."

The STARS rating report highlights a number of strengths at UMass Boston, from its urban location and diverse and inspirational student population to access to environmental science exploration opportunities. In addition to these strengths, the newly released campus Energy and Carbon Master Plan has several focus points to reduce energy demand, build renewable energy, electrify central utilities plant, and to implement increased energy efficiency actions.

“The Energy-Carbon Master Plan outlines an ambitious strategy for UMass Boston to approach zero carbon emissions from our campus operations,” Assistant Professor of Economics and Sustainability Committee member David Timmons said. “Besides reducing our largest environmental impact, this effort should help others to decarbonize, which is needed around the world.”

“One of the key things we need to continue working on is planning for climate change,” Cohen-Rosenthal said. “Recent unprecedented flooding and public health crises like COVID makes it clear that we’re reliant on and responsible to our neighbors and community to implement changes. We’re integrating planning with the city and state entities to be a part of comprehensive initiatives to address climate change.”

Following the STARS rating, there will be more opportunities for the UMass Boston campus community to learn about current and upcoming sustainability and environmental efforts, Cohen-Rosenthal said, including upcoming events for this year’s collaborative Sustainable UMass Boston Earth Day. In partnership with multiple campus departments including the School for the Environment, Dining Services, and Student Government and Clubs, these efforts will help meet the campus’s strategic priorities and create new for-credit experiential learning and paid leadership programs, increase equitable access to health-promoting and sustainable choices, expand funding opportunities, and more.

View UMass Boston’s STARS Report.

Learn more about Sustainable UMass Boston