On Jan. 30, Maryville College announced its acceptance of a bronze Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS) award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
The award verifies that Maryville’s official sustainability status is of a noteworthy standard, comparable to those of East Tennessee State University and Washington and Lee University.
STARS is a framework of sustainability goals that are compared to a self-report completed by a college or university in order to measure that institution’s sustainability performance.
In order to be eligible for the award, various factors on campus were noted and recorded throughout 2010 and 2011.
Adrienne Schwarte, associate professor of art and graphic design, supervised the data collection and assisted in the coordination of “everything from curricular surveys, transportation surveys … [to meeting] with the Physical Plant staff and reviews of strategic plans.”
Recently, MC has reviewed multiple plans to create a cohesive and forward-thinking strategy to increase the school’s environmental efforts.
Sustainability councils of students and faculty meet regularly, the on-campus business Mountain Challenge is going green with the instillation of a solar panel, and students stay eco-friendly by using bikes instead of cars, utilizing reusable coffee mugs, cups and carry-out containers, and recycling to reduce their impacts on the environment.
These efforts are nothing new.
According to Dr. Mark O’Gorman, associate professor of political science and coordinator of the environmental studies program, the bronze status serves as a concrete reward for these efforts.
“I see our bronze rating as a validation of promises and plans that I saw when I came here 15 years ago to teach,” O’Gorman said. “From research in the Smoky Mountains, to community outreach, to our college woods, we’ve always had a lot going for us, environmentally speaking. STARS has helped us tell the whole story.”
As Shannon Woolfolk, president of the Environmental Action Team, explained, the recognition by AASHE can be viewed both as a consummation of previous environmental effort and an inspiration for future work.
“I’m glad the college is seeking recognition,” Woolfolk said. “There are a lot of little programs we have, and they all add up. In my opinion, the next step is to use some of the guidelines of this organization to help improve sustainability.”
The STARS rating system is unique because it measures institutions of higher education as wholes when determining their environmental impacts.
Other well-known rating systems, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, only measure individual buildings.
Although Crawford House is pending LEED certification, there are no LEED-certified buildings on campus. However, on AASHE’s platform of high standards for sustainability, Maryville has found itself on top.