Energy from recycled landfill gas — just one of the reasons UNH earned the highest rating for campus sustainability

by Brianna Crandall — October 18, 2017 — The University of New Hampshire is one of only three higher education institutions in the world to have earned a STARS Platinum rating — the highest possible under the program — in recognition of its campus sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

UNH President Mark Huddleston remarked:

Earning platinum status affirms UNH’s place as a national leader in sustainability. It is an enduring core institutional value, shaping our culture, informing our behavior and guiding us. As home to the oldest endowed university sustainability program in the US, UNH has sustainability ingrained in all that we do across education, research and practice.

Some highlights of UNH’s campus sustainability achievements:

  • Main campus is powered 100 percent by renewable energy
  • 85 percent of campus energy comes from recycled landfill gas
  • Home to the first organic dairy research farm in the nation
  • Composts 25,000 pounds of dining hall food waste a month
  • Ranked second in North America for the study of ecology

Miriam Nelson, director of the UNH Sustainability Institute, noted that obtaining Platinum status required a university-wide effort by faculty, staff and students to document and expand the work being done. 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries attend the school.

In addition to the Platinum rating, UNH is a fixture on Sierra magazine’s list of “Cool Schools” and is one of 24 universities to receive a perfect score on Princeton Review’s Green College Honor Roll. To learn more about sustainability at UNH, the STARS report, Pathway to Platinum, is publicly available.

More than 400 institutions have earned a STARS rating, making AASHE’s STARS program a widely recognized framework throughout the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. UNH participated in the original STARS pilot group in 2008, earning a Gold rating in 2011 and 2014.

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions, notes AASHE.