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June 4, 2019

MSU earns gold rating for sustainability achievements

Michigan State University has received a Gold Rating for sustainability achievements through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, an American-based certification organization.

AASHE provides a framework to measure sustainability efforts within higher ed institutions. This Sustainability Tracking and Rating System, or STARS, is used by over 800 schools in 30 countries and is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics; engagement; operations; planning and administration; and innovation and leadership.

This is MSU’s third triennial report and the first time that it has achieved the gold rating. This increase in its overall rating from the previous silver reports is a testimony to the growth and commitment to MSU’s sustainability efforts.    

“The AASHE STARS tool provides us a consistent methodology to see the comprehensive impact and growth of our sustainability programs. It also identifies new opportunities and gives us the ability to benchmark other universities for best practices. It has been exciting to work with such a broad representation of the MSU community and be able to tell the great stories of how MSU has embedded sustainability into its core mission,” said Amy Butler, campus sustainability director. “The MSU Community is passionate about advancing knowledge and transforming lives through high quality performance and stewardship.”  

Over 150 individuals from across the university contributed to the STARS report, compiling data, documenting sources and reviewing the content to help MSU produce the most comprehensive and thorough review yet. This interconnected approach brought together departments, faculty, staff and students from all corners of MSU and provided an outlet for everyone to share sustainability stories about the campus, community, curriculum and culture.

Areas of improvement from previous reports were highest in academics, where the university improved by over a dozen points to achieve an 86% in the category. This is a result of MSU’s holistic approach to undergraduate education, where every student is exposed to sustainability concepts throughout their interdisciplinary coursework and curriculum, as well as sustainable directed research and continuing education. 

MSU continues to be a leader in engagement — both internally engaging students in sustainable programs such as the clean plates program through Residential and Housing Services and the entire campus in socio-mobility. The university excelled in the engagement category, achieving an 86%. This high achievement demonstrates the university’s commitment to the MSU community as well as its relationship to the local, regional and global communities.

MSU jumped 14 percent in the AASHE STARS system, achieving a 70.86% and becoming one of the three Gold Rated institutions in Michigan.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE executive director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Michigan State University has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS gold rating and is to be congratulated on their efforts.”

In addition to the progress in the four main categories, the report features three key innovations implemented at the University.   

  • MSU has installed the largest solar carport array in North America, contributing to increasing on-site renewable energy generation to over 10%. The MSU Solar Carports cover 5,000 parking spaces and produce 10.5 MW AC peak power and a total estimated 15,000 MWh/year of solar energy.   
  • MSU is the only university in the United States to partner with the Science Gallery Network and has created Science Gallery Detroit. This initiative acts as a collider of art and science and engages 15-25 year olds in connective, participative and surprising ways by combining emerging research and ideas from the worlds of art, science, design and technology.
  • Infrastructure and Planning Facilities implementation of the award-winning Mobile Action Plan. The MAP utilizes technology, training and innovation to optimize the maintenance and operations in socially, environmentally and economically efficient means to achieve the mission of the university — advancing knowledge and transforming lives. It empowers and engages staff in a culture of sustainability and innovation.

For more information on MSU Sustainability and the Four C’s (Campus, Community, Curriculum, Culture) please visit

By: Amy Butler

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