Colgate University Ranks Third in 2023 Sustainable Campus Index

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Colgate University has been recognized as a top performer in the 2023 Sustainable Campus Index, securing the third position among baccalaureate institutions. The index, published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), acknowledges institutions’ sustainability efforts, as measured through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

STARS assesses environmental, social, and economic sustainability across the higher education landscape. Colgate’s leap from seventh to third place is a reflection of the university’s comprehensive approach to sustainability, which led it to become the first higher education institution in New York State to achieve carbon neutrality.

Key accomplishments include the construction of LEED-certified buildings, including two LEED Gold buildings (Burke and Pinchin halls) and one LEED Platinum building (Benton Hall). Benton Hall’s sustainable design in particular has earned it numerous accolades, including New York State’s Green Building of the Year award in 2019.

Through the Third-Century Sustainability Plan, Colgate has also made significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint by implementing low-carbon energy technologies, retiring fuel oil heating systems, upgrading lighting, and conducting HVAC repairs. These efforts have collectively led to a more than 50% reduction in Colgate’s campus carbon footprint since 2017.

Going beyond infrastructure improvements, Colgate has integrated sustainability into its curriculum, with more than 12% of courses focused on or inclusive of sustainability. Colgate’s sustainability intern program, Sustainability Passport program, Green Bikes program, and other green initiatives have all contributed to its high STARS rating.

“The University’s STARS rating is a reflection of Colgate’s commitment to sustainability, from student leaders to senior leadership,” stated John Pumilio, director of sustainability. “While there is always room for improvement and our work is ongoing, Colgate’s impressive rating illustrates our role as a leader in higher education.”

In addition to providing recognition, the AASHE STARS data collection process engages staff, interns, and members of the Sustainability Council throughout the campus community. 

“Interns in the Office of Sustainability are the driving force behind the extensive data collection for the STARS report, as well as our annual greenhouse gas inventory,” explained Assistant Director of Sustainability Julia Sparks. “Over the past 13 years, the Sustainability Interns have also been responsible for the transformation of campus sustainability engagement through peer-to-peer programs, including S-Reps, Green Bikes, Student Sustainability Council, Oak Events Certification, and the Climate Conversations PE course.” 

This engagement from the entire Colgate community ensures that sustainability remains a top priority in daily operations and decision-making. Moreover, STARS offers a comprehensive overview of Colgate’s sustainability program, allowing the University to identify both its strengths and areas for further improvement.

Meghan Fay Zahniser, executive director of AASHE, commended Colgate saying, “By fostering sustainable practices and initiatives, you set an inspiring example for your peers and future generations.”

For more information about Colgate University’s sustainability efforts and AASHE STARS ranking, please visit the STARS website.