ORONO — The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) ranked the University of Maine among the top performing higher education institutions for sustainability.
The organization uses its Sustainable Campus Index to recognize colleges and universities that excel in 17 impact areas, including air and climate, curriculum, food and dining, energy, research, waste and much more. UMaine earned a score of 100 percent in the grounds category, deeming the university as one of the top 10 performers in that area for its biodiversity, campus land management and sustainable landscaping.
The report for UMaine noted its abstinence from using fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides on campus grounds; its decision to mulch and compost grass clippings, and the environmentally sensitive areas it houses on campus.
“I am very proud of the way UMaine manages its campus grounds,” says UMaine sustainability director Daniel Dixon, who is also a research assistant professor with the Climate Change Institute. “We have an in-vessel composting unit onsite that produces in excess of 150 metric tons of top-quality compost each year. Our grounds crew uses that compost as a soil amendment all over campus. We have lots of fields, lawns, flower beds, and unusual tree species on campus — maintaining all of that area without chemicals is no easy task!”
Higher education institutions receive top sustainability performer recognition from an AASHE analysis using its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS. The system measures achievements in five overall areas — academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. The culmination of the association’s evaluation results in top performer designations and sustainability ratings.
UMaine earned its first STARS Silver Rating last year, and it will maintain that classification through 2022. The association awarded UMaine the Silver accolade as a result of the university recycling and composting nearly half of its waste, reducing water consumption by 20 percent per campus user, locally-sourcing more than 20 percent of all dining food purchases, implementing student life opportunities like the Green Living and Learning dorm floor, and much more.
“It is appropriate that AASHE is recognizing the ongoing campuswide sustainability efforts at UMaine. We have been a top sustainability performer for more than a decade and will remain so with the ongoing effort and dedication of folks like our Facilities Management grounds crew,” Dixon says.
AASHE’s STARS program has more than 900 participants in 40 countries. It was created to provide a framework for understanding sustainability, enable meaningful comparisons, create incentives for continuous improvement, facilitate information sharing and support and build the campus sustainability community. STARS is open to all institutions of higher education; criteria that determine ratings are transparent and publicly accessible.
As a charter signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, UMaine has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and incorporate sustainability into its research, scholarship and community service operations.