Focus on sustainability research helps Dalhousie clinch third STARS gold rating

- September 24, 2021

Key improvements captured in the current STARS gold rating feature the efforts of a variety of departments and units across the university. (File photos)
Key improvements captured in the current STARS gold rating feature the efforts of a variety of departments and units across the university. (File photos)

Dalhousie has once again earned a gold rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

This achievement is Dalhousie's third gold rating in a row and marks a decade of improvement.

A charter participant in STARS, Dalhousie’s first submission ten years ago was given a silver rating — the university has been earning gold since then. This year, Dal’s gold rating reflects a score of 76.02, an improvement of more than six percentage points over the previous (2018) submission.

Multi-year affirmation

STARS ratings are valid for three years — Dalhousie’s current gold rating is valid until September 2024. Each submission takes months to pull together.

Lead by the Office of Sustainability, the submission process reaches across Dalhousie’s campuses and is supported by many units such as Dalhousie Analytics. The result is an in-depth report on key sustainability initiatives in academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and leadership and innovation.

Read more: Review Dalhousie’s 2021 AASHE STARS Scorecard and Report.

AASHE recognition is a key benchmark for the university. As the leading association for the advancement of sustainability in higher education, AASHE includes over 900 members across 20 countries. Its STARS ratings are one of the most recognized self-reporting frameworks for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

University-wide achievement

The STARS report reflects the multi-faceted collaboration required to plan, support and measure Dalhousie’s sustainability efforts. Though the Office of Sustainability is the centre of expertise on these matters, they work with many partners across campus and the key improvements captured in the current STARS gold rating feature the efforts of a variety of departments and individuals ranging from Facilities Management to research initiatives.

For example, the university’s academics score for this report saw improvement in the percentage of departments with sustainability course offerings. The decision to join the Fair Labor Association gave the university’s Public Engagement score a boost. And the operations score was bolstered by initiatives related to waste and energy minimization and diversion.

Perhaps the biggest gains were seen in the area of research. Since grounding Dalhousie Research and Innovation’s Strategic Direction in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the percentage of employees who conduct research that are engaged in sustainability research has increased and the percentage of departments that conduct research that are engaged in sustainability research went up.

Read more: The Big Picture: Creating a greener tomorrow

Sustainability strategy

Dalhousie has been supporting and promoting sustainability in its operations and curriculum for over 30 years. A decade of action as outlined in the Sustainability Progress Report for Campus Operations (2010-2020), has resulted in university and partners investments of more than 98 million dollars in energy, water and waste reduction measures and 65 plus sustainability related projects on campus.

Many of these efforts and improvements are tracked via metering and data collection and benchmarked through international ranking systems such as AASHE STARS. These tools keep the university accountable to its goals and help highlight areas for future focus.

What’s next?

Though they’ve been busy wrapping up the 2010-2020 sustainability strategy and compiling the submission for the AASHE STARS rating, the Office of Sustainability is already looking ahead to the next decade of priority sustainability operational action. They're hoping to keep the momentum going with initiatives that work toward even more campus-as-a-living-lab curriculum connections, a renewal of the sustainable building policy, and renewable energy programs like Nova Scotia Green Choice.

In early October, a new initiative is being launched that will address sustainability in the university’s 1,350 plus lab spaces. The Office of Sustainability will provide the fees for up to 10 green lab certifications per year through the internationally-recognized My Green Lab sustainability certification program.

Learn more: Join the Green Labs launch event on Thursday, October 7th, at 2:00 – 3:30 pm on MS Teams to discover how your lab can be one of the first to get certified.


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