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May 20, 2019

CMU Receives Gold Rating for Sustainability Efforts

By Bruce Gerson

Carnegie Mellon has received gold status from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, surpassing its silver rating in 2015.

CMU’s self-reported sustainability performance was evaluated using AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). STARS evaluates institutions in five categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, Planning and Administration, and Innovation and Leadership.

Architecture Professor Nina Baird, co-chair of CMU’s Green Practices Committee, said the assessment measured practices in relation to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

“Those goals cover a broad range of aspirations about doing the best we can to live in this world: to seek social justice, environmental health, economic equity and ongoing personal wellbeing, including quality education and lifelong learning,” said Baird, faculty lead on the assessment project. “So much of what we do on this campus reflects those goals, from the courses we offer and research we do, to the way we support staff, faculty and students, and continually work to improve campus operations.” 

Baird thanked the many individuals who were involved in compiling the report.

image of stormwater tank installation
Four concrete, waterproof sectioned tanks, 80-feet long, 16-feet wide and 10-feet tall, were installed under the Hamerschlag Mall in 2016. The tanks help to mitigate stormwater runoff and can can collect up to 275,000 gallons of water, which can be reused for the campus chilled water cooling systems.

“Dozens of staff and faculty worked on the assessment itself and it reflects the work of thousands — what we’re already doing to make this place and the world more sustainable.  It’s truly a group effort and reflects the strength and quality of Carnegie Mellon,” she said.    

In a letter to the STARS Steering Committee, CMU President Farnam Jahanian noted the university’s strong record of advancing research, education and practice in sustainable design and infrastructure. He cited the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation’s Energy Week for bringing thought-leaders together to discuss best practices and future energy-saving developments. He highlighted CMU’s 2017 purchase of 100% of its electricity from a windfarm, and significant improvements to the university’s wastewater infrastructure.

Jahanian also noted the new Tepper School of Business building was recently awarded LEED Gold certification — bringing the number of LEED-certified facilities on campus to 22 — and CMU’s recycling and composting efforts, which annually divert more than 1,400 tons from landfills.

Barb Kviz, co-chair of the Green Practices Committee, said this year’s assessment was the most comprehensive the university has ever submitted to AASHE.

“We did a much better job of connecting with the right people who could supply the data and  information we needed to reach the Gold ranking,” Kviz said. 

The next AASHE evaluation is slated for 2022.

“I hope we keep striving so we reach Platinum status on our next review,” Baird said.