By Lauren Olson, Farm & Sea to Campus Communications Intern

Posted December 1, 2016


New England Campuses Come Out on Top in AASHE Campus Sustainability Ratings for 2016

New England Campuses Show Leadership in Campus Sustainability, with Sterling College at No. 1 Nationally for their Sustainable Food Programs

Photo Caption:  Sterling College Executive Chef Simeon Bittman prepares a chilled sorrel soup and offers it to John Korkos, Unity College Farm Technician, at the "Local Foods for Small Campuses Event" hosted by FINE in partnership with Unity College in June 2016.  

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has recently released their Sustainable Campus Index with the top performers in campus sustainability for 2016. AASHE is able to determine this based on the method they created to rate top performing colleges and universities in different aspects of sustainability. Their system, Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) allows for participating members to measure their sustainability performance with four basic categories: academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration.

Colleges and universities choose to participate in STARS in order to gauge their improvement in various areas of sustainability over time, highlight their commitment to sustainability to both internal and external audiences, and to engage a broad array of campus offices and departments in measuring and discussing sustainability. By taking part in it, campuses are able to identify new ideas for sustainability programs and also gain recognition for the sustainability efforts that are already in place. There are 27 campuses in New England that have a STARS bronze, silver, or gold rating.

In the food and dining category, Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont, rated No. 1 for campus food systems, focusing on local, sustainable, fair trade and humane food choices. The college produces 20% of its food on site and sources 54% of the food used in dining operations from within 250 miles. Sterling College also participates in the Real Food Challenge and has signed the Real Food Commitment. Real Food Challenge leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system. The campaign's main goal is to shift $1 billion of current university food budgets away from industrial and processed foods towards a more local/community-based diet by 2020.

Sterling College also came in at No. 11 for the website Online College Plan, where school farms are ranked. Schools received points for farm acreage, crop variety, and sustainability-related degree programs. Green Mountain College and its Cerridwen Farm were right behind at No. 12 and College of the Atlantic was among the top-ranked campuses at No. 25.

In Maine, Unity College was ranked number one in the Investment & Finance category for STARS, while Green Mountain College in Vermont was the top campus overall for the Baccalaureate Institutions. In Massachusetts, Stonehill College leads the field in the coordination and planning category. The school holds a monthly Environmental Stewardship Council (ESC) meeting to work on and report sustainability initiatives.

How Does AASHE STARS Rate Campus Dining?

You can learn more about STARS and the technical details of its rating system in the STARS Technical Manual. Here is a description of the credits within their system that relate specifically to dining.

Food & Beverage Purchasing

Total Points Possible: 4 points in STARS 2.0                   

This credit recognizes institutions that are supporting sustainable food systems through their food and beverage purchases. Institutions can do this by prioritizing the purchase of sustainably produced food and beverage items. These actions reduce the social and environmental impacts of food production and help foster robust local economies and food security; improved conditions for farm workers; healthier animals, soils and streams; and secure livelihoods for farmers.         

Sustainable Dining

Total Points Possible: 3 points in STARS 2.0             

This credit recognizes institutions that minimize the purchase of conventionally produced animal products and that offer vegan options in their dining services operations. Conventionally produced animal products are the most significant contributor to the environmental impacts of food purchases, are often produced using inhumane methods, and have a higher per-calorie environmental intensity than products that are not animal-derived. Institutions can lessen these impacts by minimizing their purchase of animal-derived products and by purchasing more sustainably produced foods. Offering vegan options meets the needs of the diverse diets of community members. In addition, meat-based diets generally require more energy, land, and water resources and have a higher carbon footprint than plant-based diets, often making vegan options a more sustainable alternative.

New England Institutions PARTICIPATING IN AASHE STARS & Their Campus Dining Ratings

*Note: Some campus numbers below reflect a previous version of STARS     

The information below is organized in the following way:  

Institution Name (State)
Ratings: Food and beverage purchasing rating (points out of 4) / sustainable dining rating (points out of 3)

New England Campus Dining Ratings

Eastern Connecticut State University (CT)
Ratings: 1.5 / 1

University of Connecticut (CT)
Ratings: 1.4 / 1.3

Babson University (MA)
Ratings: 0.3 / 1

Bentley College (MA)
Ratings: X / 1

Boston University (MA)
Ratings: 0.9 / 1.7

Endicott College (MA) 
Ratings: 0.6 / 3

Smith College (MA)
Ratings: 0.9 / 1.7

Stonehill College (MA)
Ratings: X / 1

Tufts University (MA)
Ratings: 0.5 / 1.4

University of Massachusetts Amherst (MA)
Ratings: 0.7 / 1

University of Massachusetts Lowell (MA):
Ratings: X / 2 (out of 2)

University of Massachusetts Medical School (MA)
Ratings: 0.1 / 1

Wellesley College (MA)
Ratings: 0.4 / 1.3

Williams College (MA)
Ratings: 0.6 / 1

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)
Ratings: 1.5 / 1

Bowdoin College (ME):
Ratings: 1.4 / 1

Colby College (ME)
Ratings: 0.8 / 1

Saint Joseph’s College (ME)
Ratings: 1.9 / 1.7

Unity College (ME)
Ratings: 1.5 / 1.6

Keene State College (NH)
Ratings: 0.7 / 1

University of New Hampshire (NH)
Ratings: 0.9 / 1

Champlain College (VT)
Ratings: 0.6 / 1

Green Mountain College (VT)
Ratings: 1.5 / 1.4

Middlebury College (VT)
Ratings: 0.9 / 1

Sterling College (VT)
Ratings: 4 / 1.8

Bryant University (RI)
Ratings: 0.5 / 1.3