Sustainability efforts garner silver rating

The university was promoted to a silver rating by STARS after receiving bronze in 2015.

Kathleen Grady, director of sustainability, stands in front of an Indego bike-share station on 13th Street near Montgomery Avenue on Monday. | HANNAH BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University received a higher rating for its sustainability efforts from Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, a program that monitors environmental initiatives at campuses across the country. 

STARS, which is run by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, gave Temple 50.04 points out of a possible 104 points on its rating scale. The score qualified Temple for a silver rating, a promotion from its July 2015 bronze rating. Universities must report to STARS every three years in order to maintain an active ranking.

Kathleen Grady, the director of sustainability, said this rating is due to environmentally friendly architecture and emissions reductions. She added that all new buildings on campus are certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building rating system more commonly known as LEED.

“We can see that sustainability is incorporated in the campus itself,” Grady said. “From a greenhouse gas perspective, we purchased green energy credits.” 

Green energy credits offset campus emissions with a comparable transition to reductions elsewhere, like wind farms, solar energy and geothermal projects.

In a letter submitted to STARS in February, Temple highlighted the completion of six LEED-certified buildings since 2014, the installation of improved stormwater management practices, additional education and research opportunity and the operation of the Rad Dish Cafe, an organic cafe on campus.

The rating system considers buildings, transportation, waste, water and energy use. It also factors the inclusion of courses that emphasize environmentalism in a university’s curriculum and other areas, like research and investments.

Temple scored best in transportation, waste reduction, diversity and affordability and grounds and planning categories. The university scored lower in water, energy use and finance. The ranking report noted the university is not pursuing sustainable investment policies.

Temple has taken part in environmental initiatives for more than a decade. In April 2008, Temple signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Since then, the university has been in collaboration with Second Nature, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that focuses on improving sustainability efforts in higher education, and the AASHE.

Emissions at the university have reduced by 13 percent since 2006, Grady said.

STARS gave the university feedback, like applying more sustainable use of water and landscape management, to improve its ranking to a gold or platinum.

Grady said Temple is releasing an update to its Climate Action Plan to become carbon neutral, or equalizing emissions with green energy initiatives.

The plan does not include a commitment to achieve a gold rating, as Grady said that the campus is unique and should see the STARS ratings as “guidelines.”

“It’s a great way internally to look at new ideas and other areas where we could possibly be working,” she said. “It becomes more stringent every time. [STARS is] always trying to have folks get higher.”

Every university takes a different approach to improving sustainability on its campus, wrote Jordan Schanda, a STARS program coordinator, in an email to The Temple News.

“One of the great features of STARS is that it can function as a roadmap by providing a menu of options for institutions to choose from when deciding how they want to advance sustainability on their campus,” Schanda wrote.

Grady said the university is hiring a consultant to conduct a waste composition report to analyze its waste stream, how much contamination is in university recycling and how much food is not captured by digesters on campus. 

The Office of Sustainability is trying to get student organizations involved with sustainability. The office has a Green Grant program, where student organizations can receive $500 to implement a sustainability project, Grady said.

Jimmy Gottshall, a freshman computer science major who is involved with Defend Our Future, a national organization that seeks to register young voters to promote climate-conscious policies, said the STARS rating is a good start, but there is more the university can be doing.

“We’re in a pretty good place,” Gottshall said. “I’m kind of glad we got at least a silver. I would like to see us get a better award in the future.”

He added the administration could do more to promote eco-friendly practices among students, like increasing the number of recycling cans in key areas.

“I’m excited that Temple’s sustainability program received this recognition, and it’s a testament to the hard work that’s been happening on campus by many individuals,” Grady said. “Hopefully in three years we’ll re-submit and [we] hope to achieve gold.”

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