Sustainability Rating Systems

You may have seen that the Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges: 2021 was published a few weeks ago and wondered why Williams wasn’t included in their Top 50. We’re here to tell you about the assessment – as well as a couple of others – and explain why we rank where we do.  

The Princeton Review ranks schools based on a comprehensive analysis of schoolwide sustainability policies and practices called The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which is a program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (commonly known as AASHE).  Sustainability is a complicated term that references many different aspects at once and is often defined as having three main spheres: environmental, economic, and social.  STARS encompasses a broad and comprehensive view of sustainability that goes beyond campus operations to academics, engagement, planning & administration and allows schools to track individual progress and compare their progress to other institutions. Williams has completed three STARS reports (we do so about every three years) and has achieved a Silver ranking each time.  

The Princeton Review adds its own personal spin on STARS to emphasize the importance of implementing sustainability principles in all aspects of campus life in order to train students to act environmentally responsible after college. This is evaluated through the quality of student life in regards to health and sustainability, preparation of students for employment in a growing green economy, and responsibility of a school’s policies environmentally. The Princeton Review uses a previously completed STARS report for scoring. Nothing about the STARS report is altered, there is only a ten question survey gathering supplemental information which helps determine the Green Rating. Princeton only provides specific rankings and special recognition for colleges that place in the top 50 most sustainable colleges.

Williams College did not make the list of Top 50 Green Colleges, but we did score high enough to receive recognition as one of 416 Green Colleges (out of 700 total schools who submitted their STARS reports.  Five NESCAC peers were able to make the Top 50 Green Colleges list including Middlebury, Colby, Bowdoin, Bates, and Wesleyan. There are so many seemingly identical sustainability assessments because the evaluations are helpful for colleges to track and improve sustainability. Williams is able to see how our sustainability score is not as high as we would like and we can target ways to improve our sustainability and learn from the successes of other colleges. We have implemented a sustainability strategic plan that should increase the college’s sustainability in multiple ways. This will be reflected in improved performances in sustainability assessments like Princeton Review’s Green Colleges, STARS, and a third assessment – Cool Schools – that we’ll cover in a future post.

An overview of the STARS sections/points and Williams points totals in each section