MU Sustainability Office takes action to raise STARS score

The Sustainability Office will be filing new data for an updated STARS score in 2018.

The MU Sustainability Office is preparing its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System report for 2018. In this report, the office will report MU data in order to receive a sustainability score.

According to Srinivasan Raghavan, the Sustainability Office manager, sustainability is the equilibrium of the environment, society and economics.

STARS tracks and rates participating universities’ progress toward sustainability in academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration and innovation. The overall numeric scores given to each school are then translated into awards of reporter, bronze, silver, gold or platinum.

Currently, MU has a score of 65.93/100, which is equivalent to a gold standing. This was reported in 2015.

“We have subscribed to STARS because we feel there is substantial student interest in sustainability,” Raghavan said. “One can only manage what one measures. We feel that if we can benchmark are our sustainability metrics we can make progress. Making progress in STARS helps us in responsible stewardship of our resources which is aligned with the mission of the University of Missouri.”

The MU Sustainability Office is taking several small steps in each category to raise MU’s overall score. But with a lot to get done and not enough people to do it all, it’s been tricky.

“STARS has over 60 categories,” Raghavan said. “We are a two-person office at this point. Despite being short staffed we are making gradual progress by prioritizing areas of improvement.”

Currently the office is trying to increase sustainability content within the curriculum, improve outreach, build more efficient buildings and improve recycling programs.

“We’re making what we call gradual progress on all of these things, so we’re looking at all of them and seeing where we can improve,” Raghavan said.

Over the last several months, Raghavan has been meeting and working with several offices on campus to raise awareness and integrate sustainability into MU. These organizations include campus facilities, academic affairs, faculty and even the city of Columbia.

The MU STARS 2015 report showed MU needed the most improvement in curriculum, research, buildings and energy.

The report specifically emphasized the importance of increasing sustainability programs through the curriculum.

“We were unable to claim more than 15 points in Academics, and this will take a considerable amount of time to remedy,” the 2015 report noted. “We are certain that we can improve this score by capturing all of these relevant classes, programs and other sustainable practices by implementing a central reporting system.”

While the MU office is still trying to incorporate sustainability measures in the MU curriculum, the energy section is bound to score higher. This year, MU was named the winner of the IDEA System of the Year Award, which recognizes a school each year that has excelled at energy conservation.

“Energy management at Mizzou has made great progress in spite of budget cuts,” Raghavan said. “For on-site green power generation we are among the top universities in the country.”

With the help from students, faculty and staff, Raghavan and the office of sustainability hope to raise the STARS score for MU.

Edited by Sarah Hallam | shallam@themaneater.com

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