Dec. 13, 2021
VCU earns Gold for sustainability
The university is preparing to begin development of a comprehensive sustainability plan.
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Virginia Commonwealth University has received a Gold Rating from an international sustainability organization that measures the performance of higher education institutions in five key areas.
VCU received the STARS Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. More than 900 colleges and universities in 40 countries participate in the organization’s STARS program, which stands for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. STARS measures sustainability achievements in the areas of academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. Institutions that participate are surveyed every three years and receive a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Rating. VCU’s rating has been Silver since 2012.
“This rating represents leadership in the area of sustainability and offers VCU a strong start to our ONE VCU Sustainability Plan, the development of which will begin early next semester,” said Meredith Weiss, Ph.D., vice president for administration. “VCU is fortunate to have the support and partnership of the university and health system community members who are passionate about making an impact on sustainability.”
Among the highlights of VCU’s submission that helped elevate the university’s rating to Gold were:
- The development of the VCU Free Store, an initiative designed to promote equitable access to household and stationery supplies for students in need, while diverting usable goods from the general waste stream.
- The successful piloting of a food-production program that has allowed students to actively manage an indoor microgreens growing operation and donate produce to the campus food pantry, while earning academic credit.
- Implementation of a community forestry program to enhance Richmond's urban tree canopy that has engaged students, faculty and staff in experiential learning and service opportunities that meet community needs.
- The formation of a cross-campus working group to reduce single-use plastic and polystyrene items used on campus, in compliance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 77.
- In 2018, VCU invested $17 million in a multibuilding energy performance contract and has achieved emission reductions of more than 59,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The ONE VCU Sustainability Plan will be a comprehensive road map to guide sustainability goals and policies at VCU and VCU Health System. The process to develop the plan will begin next semester and actively seek the vast expertise of VCU students, faculty, staff, team members and the local community by offering multiple opportunities to ask questions and share ideas.
“As ONE VCU, we recognize the role the university and health system play in supporting environmentally sustainable initiatives through education, health care, innovation, collaboration and engagement,” said Ann Kildahl, Ph.D., director of sustainability.
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