Ireland’s University College Cork (UCC) has become the first institution outside of North America to achieve a gold star rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). UCC now joins Princeton, Cornell and UC Berkeley in receiving the highest standard, Gold ‘Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System’ (STARS) for excellence in sustainability.
Already the first university in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from the Foundation of Environmental Education initially in 2007, the UCC campus has been blazing a sustainability trail for over 10 years now to develop and achieve world-class Green Campus initiatives. UCC was the world’s first university to to achieve ISO50001 for Energy Management and has signed the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, while other proactive environmental initiatives include the Green Library campaign, launching of Ireland’s first single-use disposable free café, the introduction of a pollinator strategy and several beehives on campus, a KSG Catering farm-to-fork programme, and many other sustainability initiatives. UCC was also the first HEI in the country to achieve its 2020 public sector energy efficiency targets, three years ahead of schedule.
Speaking at the announcement of UCC’s Gold STARS award, UCC Deputy President and Registrar Professor John O’Halloran said: “We are thrilled that we have received this accolade for our student-led, research informed, practice focussed sustainability agenda at UCC. This accolade speaks to the priority UCC places on sustainability to enable our students and staff meet the global challenges of the twenty-first century.”
With more than 800 participants in 30 countries, AASHE’s STARS programme is the most widely recognised framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to an institution’s sustainability performance. The STARS programme assesses institutions across academics, engagement, operations and governance. It includes direct operational impact on the environment, how sustainable development is included in teaching and research activities, and an institution’s performance in regard to equality and wellbeing of staff and students.
“The STARS gold rating highlights more than 10 years of work in engaging students and staff in sustainability through the Green Campus programme. Embarking on the AASHE programme represents a commitment from UCC to put sustainability and care for the environment at the core of its activities,” said the university’s Sustainability Officer, Maria Kirrane.
“The AASHE STARS team is delighted that University College Cork has earned a STARS Gold Rating for its sustainability performance. The UCC Green Campus Programme and Green Forum have clearly made great progress in implementing the university’s ambitious sustainability strategy. We are excited to recognise UCC’s many achievements and share its ongoing journey through STARS.” Chris Pelton, AASHE STARS Programme Manager.
Mark Poland, UCC’s Director of Buildings and Estates and Green Forum co-chair added: “UCC is committed to continually improving its environmental performance and engaging its entire community of students and staff in these efforts.”
Larger than the average Irish town, UCC’s green initiatives have been adopted by staff, students and visitors to the campus, and exemplify collaboration and a real willingness to protect our world and be a truly sustainable campus. The commitment to green policies and activities from senior management through to students, working with a resourced and effective sustainability team, has enabled UCC to become a global leader in sustainability, as acknowledged by this latest award from AASHE.