WLU sustainable efforts recognized

Graphic by: Lena Yang
Graphic by: Lena Yang

For Claire Bennett, Wilfrid Laurier University’s sustainability coordinator, earning a silver rating in the internationally recognized Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) meant more than just recognition.

“For us, the STARS is incredibly important in benchmarking and baselining our progress,” Bennett said. “Without that information, we won’t really be able to progress in a really impactful manner. We need to really be aware of where we are in order to make the biggest impact in terms of our challenges and our success areas in order to strengthen those.”

STARS, given out by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performances. The report gives the sustainability groups a measurement of what they have done so far and where they can improve.

Three years ago, Laurier scored a bronze rating. This year, Laurier sustainability scored a 56.21 overall score to earn their silver rating.

“It’s nice to get that recognition on an international scale,” said Bennett, who has been the main coordinator in the sustainability initiatives since 2010.

Bennett also explained that Laurier was the first university to do the assessment in the new 2.0 version, which is “much more rigorous than the previous 1.0 or 1.2 versions” in terms of looking at analysis of merits and associated merits.

“This information is extremely valuable in giving us the recognition, but also moving forward with the very realistic data,” Bennett explained. “It goes to show in the last three years we’ve gone from not doing a ton in sustainability to being considered leaders in the area of sustainability.”

According to the report, Laurier scored a zero in three categories in 2010, including air and climate and buildings.

In 2013, Laurier received a 5.53 out of 11 in “air and climate,” and a 5.38 out of eight in “buildings.”

In 2013, Laurier also received a perfect score of eight out of eight for coordination, planning and governance, up from 11 out of 18 in 2010, as well as a score of 14.75 out of 20 in campus engagement, up from 5.75 out of 17.75 in 2010.

“The reassessment and releasing the STARS results is a key thing for us in 2014 as well and we want to do a solar panel project for students,” Bennett said. “In the report, there are key projects of what are ahead in the 2014 year as well.”

Bennett explained that the report helps her and the sustainability group have a good indication of where they need to improve in the upcoming year.

“Our main areas of improvement, which you tend to see, is integrated in the administrative level of terms of purchasing and when we’re doing our financial and investment stuff as well,” she said.

Bennett also explained that she hopes to increase the profile of sustainability not only in the Laurier community, but also locally around Kitchener-Waterloo and eventually globally.

There’s a hope to improve in areas such as purchasing food and alternative transportation around WLU, as well.

“Those are kind of the key areas that I would really like to be focusing on and we already have some really good plans in terms of focusing on energy management and making more outdoor spaces for students and I think that’s really important areas for the university,” Bennett said.

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