Colorado State University remains first in public engagement in 2019 Sustainable Campus Index

a CSU student takes a photograph while standing near a stream

CSU’s Emma Balunek, who studies ecosystem science and sustainability, takes a photo during a BioBlitz at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Photo: Bill Cotton/CSU Photography

Colorado State University has once again been recognized as a leading performer in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index, achieving the highest spot in public engagement. CSU was also recognized for research and campus engagement, and ranked fourth overall for universities that grant doctoral degrees.

The Sustainable Campus Index, published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, recognizes top-performing colleges and universities overall and in 17 sustainability impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, also known as STARS.

The index also highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from institutions that submitted STARS reports in the most recent calendar year.

Among the highlights, CSU tied for second place with 18 other universities in the research category, and shared third place spot in campus engagement with four universities. Nearly 80 percent of departments at CSU engage in sustainability research.

CSU ranked fifth in well-being and work, which includes student and employee wellness programs and employee compensation, satisfaction, health and safety. The University also placed eighth in curriculum, which covers courses, living laboratory initiatives, immersive experiences, sustainability literacy and faculty development.

Lynn Johnson, vice president for university operations, said CSU’s decision to invest in sustainability and related efforts is based on a passion to protect the environment and people. Everyone in the university community helps to encourage sustainability, she said.

“The efforts we’ve made include students, faculty, staff, the city of Fort Collins and our researchers,” Johnson added. “We once again ranked as a top performer because everyone comes together to collaborate on and advocate for sustainability.”

students in the Zero Waste Team walk up stairs at Canvas Stadium
Close-up of bees

Engaging the public

CSU Extension helps people in Colorado become more sustainable by offering land management consultations, community energy assessments, rainwater harvesting demonstrations and support for local food systems.

In addition, the University has aligned its climate action plan goals with the city of Fort Collins. CSU also partners with the city on ClimateWise, a free, voluntary program that offers solutions to help businesses save money and gain recognition for achievements in energy and water conservation, waste reduction, alternative transportation and social responsibility.

CSU’s Eco Leaders — peer educators who raise awareness about sustainability and encourage environmentally responsible behaviors by students — manage recycling stations during move in. And the student-led Zero Waste Team hosts waste diversion and up-cycling events at football games at Canvas Stadium, as well as craft nights and potlucks held on campus.

“Being recognized as a top performer in six different categories ranging from research and curriculum to well-being and work demonstrates the University’s comprehensive commitment to sustainability across campus,” said Tonie Miyamoto, co-chair for the President’s Sustainability Commission and director of communications and sustainability for Housing & Dining Services.

“Students, faculty and staff at CSU should be very proud of this accomplishment,” she added.

In 2015, CSU was the first university in the world to have its sustainability efforts rated Platinum by STARS. In 2017, CSU achieved the Platinum rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for the second time.

“The institutions being recognized as top performers in this year’s Sustainable Campus Index exemplify the leadership higher education institutions are showing in addressing sustainability challenges,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser.

#ProudToBe a cool, green school

CSU is no. 9 on Sierra magazine’s Coolest Schools of 2019. The magazine ranks colleges according to which ones offer the best sustainability-focused courses, eco-friendly cafeteria provisions, and carbon-neutral land and energy policies. The rankings also include which schools have the most opportunities to engage with the environmental movement.

The university is also one of 26 schools that made the 2020 Green Honor Roll, produced by The Princeton Review. Nearly 700 colleges received Green Rating scores from The Princeton Review this year.