Boise State received a silver rating in sustainability efforts this past month in the university’s first ever report to an international organization that promotes sustainability in higher education.
The organization, called the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), uses a points-based system called the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating Systems (STARS) to evaluate sustainability on campuses through a universal metric.
The Boise State Sustainability Department submitted a STARS report this year for the first time, which contained compiled information from different university departments.
“Sustainability is all things: energy, water, waste, transportation, accessibility, affordability. It’s just kind of everything,” said Kat Davis, the sustainability director at Boise State.
The STARS report also looks at academics, engagement, communication, planning and innovation to calculate a university’s score.
Part of Boise State’s rating can be attributed to the university’s high community engagement, academics and research, according to Davis. The university has also made strides towards using cleaner energy through the use of geothermal energy, which heats over 700,000 square feet of campus.
Boise State’s Sustainability Department has worked to “educate and engage students, faculty and staff to live a more sustainable lifestyle,” according to Davis.
With this goal, the Sustainability Department has countless opportunities for students and staff to engage in the department or other programs and clubs that promote sustainability on campus.
Mackenzie Egelston is a junior environmental studies major and a Work U student with the Sustainability Department. She shared her experience working on RecycleFest, a program that aims to educate students living on campus about what can be recycled.
“RecycleFest has been impactful because we got to talk to so many students and tell them this is what we’re doing and this is what you can do specifically,” Egelston said. “There was a lot of engagement we got that really told us we’re not the only ones who care about this.”
Luke Lundblad is another Work U student with the Sustainability Department. He is a Boise State senior majoring in business administration with a minor in sustainability. Lundblad has been working on food waste assessments at campus dining locations.
“[The assessment] was data collection and outreach at the same time. Getting that experience and also being able to stand there and talk to people, I felt like I was doing a lot all at once,” Lundblad said.
Information from these food waste assessments is currently being gathered to help write a grant for a food digester for South Fork, which would help to decrease food waste on campus.
The Sustainability Department also has programs for recycling during events at the ExtraMile Arena. Additionally, Trash Club works to clean up areas of campus and responsibly dispose of trash. The Sustainability Club manages the Juanita Street gardens, and ASBSU’s Sustainability Committee pushes for policies that support sustainability.
“Everyone on campus has that opportunity to contribute to building a better future on campus, and our campus is uniquely receptive to student voices,” Davis said.
Egleston also stressed the importance of making sustainability a priority.
“Our world will not continue on if we do not implement these sustainable practices,” Egleston said.
Based on the rating received from AASHE, the Boise State Sustainability Department can now focus on how to improve their scores for the next STARS report and continue to make great strides in sustainability efforts. Some of those focuses include becoming carbon neutral and working towards 100% renewable energy.
“Sustainability is definitely something everybody should care about, and I think it’s really important that everybody is educated on it,” Lundblad said.