By Sami Bhusal, Freelancer
As the academic year comes to an end, the Campus Sustainability Committee would like to update our campus community about some of our initiatives and progress.
In June 2017, SUA submitted its first Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), and SUA was certified STARS Bronze. As the parent organization of STARS, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, describes the initiative, STARS is a “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.” STARS creates a framework to assess campus sustainability in various areas of higher education. We can only improve when we know how we perform.
Various areas of STARS includes academics, operations, engagement, and planning administration. To associate STARS with only energy and water usage scorecard is misleading. With STARS, higher institutions have an incentive to improve their sustainability performance, and it also enhances information sharing about campus sustainability.
In the context of SUA, being STARS certified means that we have started measuring our sustainability performance. From creating inventories about sustainability in academics and student engagement to assessing purchases, diversity, affordability, and planning, STARS certification has been the first step to improve sustainability. STARS rewards efforts such as incorporating sustainability into employee orientation and maintaining sustainability related community partnerships.
For SUA, STARS has opened up conversations about various sustainability improvements. It has generated interest in long term planning and consideration of some changes in the ways in which we purchase, invest, and operate. One of the major improvements is the drafting of campus sustainability plans. Currently, the campus sustainability committee is working on creating a sustainability plan that includes measurable and achievable sustainability goals for each areas of campus.
In addition to the campus sustainability committee at large, much is happening with the Soka Student Union (SSU) Student Sustainability Committee. For the 2018-2019, we have new committee members from the Class of 2021, Chloe Simson, Shelby Kohn, and Katherine Bennett. The student committee is currently planned exciting events for the 2nd Annual Earth Week. Sustainability talks with professors, panel discussion, film screening, LA river cleanup, clothing swap, and Instagram photo contest are some of the events that took place during Earth Week.
In between now and the next Pearl issue, there are several ways you can learn and keep up with sustainability on campus. Meeting minutes from campus sustainability committee are available on SUA portal under Areas>Operations>Campus Sustainability Committee. If you want to learn details of SUA’s STARS certification, you can find SUA’s report under Areas>Operations>Campus Sustainability>Recent>STARS. In addition, the student sustainability committee meets Tuesday evenings, and if you have ideas and initiatives you are welcome to join us! As always, please feel free to reach out to any current (Laura Heller, Chloe, Shelby, and Katherine) or previous committee SSU sustainability committee members.
Sustainability at SUA, to me, is a work in progress. With great coordination and interest from all areas of campus including students, we can improve campus sustainability.