CMU ranks high in sustainability efforts according to report


Central Michigan University received a gold rating on its latest Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report, a nationally recognized database used to track institutional sustainability efforts.

The report was started by Central Sustainability in Oct. 2019, a new sustainability platform created by students Eric Urbaniak and Teresa Homsi. (Homsi is also a writer for Central Michigan Life). 

Urbaniak said the preliminary report was completed in August 2020, followed by an external review process that lasted until Oct. 2020. The process involved cooperation from multiple facets of the university.

In total, CMU increased its overall rating by 13.29 points since 2017.

Institutions are rated on many facets related to sustainability. Each category is broken down and scored. The total of these scores will qualify each institution for a rating.

Many publications including The Penn State News and The Princeton Review have turned to STARS reports to compare sustainability leaders among colleges. 

STARS rates institutions in four categories: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Universities that do not meet requirements for bronze are labeled as “reporters.” More than 1,000 institutions use STARS, and 130 have received gold status and nine are platinum. 

"We were looking for a tool that would compare the university’s sustainability efforts with peer institutions. We got much more with STARS," Director of Facilities Operations Jay Kahn said. "It also compared social justice issues with environmental justice and much more. It’s the new benchmark in higher education."

Kahn was first to submit a STARS report on behalf of CMU in 2017. The project has since changed hands.

"This project was student-led and students complied information, understood it, documented CMU’s sustainability practices in STARS and submitted the work with follow-up on comments. I couldn’t be prouder," Kahn said.

CMU does not have an official administrative-level sustainability office. Central Sustainability is working out of the Office for Institution Diversity and Equity inclusion. 

“We have functioned as an outstanding team for the past year," Urbaniak said. “We are able to make a significant impact through the campus community.”

Urbaniak said CMU's gold rating indicates the university is achieving 65 percent of STARS' sustainability objectives.

"Although STARS is very important, there is still plenty of room for growth," Urbaniak said. "If CMU strives to be the most sustainable campus, they must advocate for institutional sustainability at the highest level."

Here are some main takeaways and interesting facts from the report:

  • CMU has a perfect score in the Innovation and Leadership category and was awarded 18.22 points out of 21.00 in Campus Engagement. 
  • CMU is rated highly in Biodiversity. The qualifications for this category range from the protection of endangered species to internationally recognized land conservations.
  •   Out of 326 vehicles in CMU's fleet, only one is fully electric
  • CMU is rated highly in food recovery on a national scale. Khan said the university diverts over 330 tons of food from landfills each year through foodservice and composting partnerships.
  • The Bovee University Center, Multipurpose Stadium, College of Medicine, Education & Human Services building, Ronan Hall and graduate housing buildings have all received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.