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CCU earns second STARS Silver rating from AASHE for sustainability achievements

March 7, 2022
The Green Team is an integral part of the behind-the-scenes work of sustainability at CCU.Each Chanticleer home football game is a zero-waste initiative, providing fans with the opportunity to practice environmental stewardship.

Coastal Carolina University has earned a STARS Silver rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is the most widely-recognized and comprehensive self-assessment tool used by higher education institutions to measure their sustainability progress.

AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser said: “STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts. Coastal Carolina University has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

Participating in STARS required a substantial amount of data collection and input from across the campus. As part of this process, CCU reported on its achievements in five overall areas: academics; engagement; operations; planning and administration; and innovation and leadership. CCU earned recognition in a number of categories. Highlights from CCU’s recent STARS report include:

• In July 2021, CCU President Michael T. Benson established the President’s Council for Sustainability and Coastal Resilience. The council is charged with transforming CCU into a more sustainable campus, centering sustainability in the University’s curriculum and student services, and serving the surrounding communities to build toward a sustainable future.

• As of Spring 2021, CCU students can pursue either a Bachelor of Science degree or Bachelor of Arts degree in sustainability and coastal resilience. CCU is the first public institution in South Carolina to offer an undergraduate degree with a focus on sustainability, and the only institution in the nation to offer a degree in sustainability and coastal resilience.

• Each Chanticleer home football game is a zero-waste initiative, providing fans with the opportunity to practice environmental stewardship by recycling and composting their waste on game days. During the Fall 2021 season, CCU was able to divert, on average, nearly 70% of the waste generated at Brooks Stadium for each home football game. In addition to waste diverted from the landfill, each game provides hands-on experiential learning opportunities for classes and individual student volunteers.

Sustain Coastal, CCU’s dedicated sustainability office, oversees the Eco-Reps and the Green Team student staff. Eco-Rep leaders devote their time to educating peers, fostering sustainable behavior, and building community. The Green Team is an integral part of the behind-the-scenes work of sustainability at the University. The Green Team consists of student staff who collect recyclables on campus in all academic and administrative buildings, as well as during athletic events.

• The University earned perfect scores in a number of categories, including the Campus as a Living Laboratory field, which assesses how sustainability education is incorporated into buildings, air quality, and other on-campus operations. Through programs such as Georgetown RISE Youth Corps, CCU also earned full points for the category on Immersive Experience, which seeks to recognize institutions that make sustainability-focused immersive programs available to students.

CCU’s new rating marks an exciting achievement from its first STARS submission in 2015, and highlights the progress in sustainability the institution has made in recent years. Darcy Coughlan, associate director of Sustain Coastal, worked on compiling the information for the STARS report.

“It was critically important for CCU to participate in the STARS program and reassess how we are doing as an institution, as much has changed on campus since our last rating,” said Coughlan. “This process provides us with information about how we have improved and highlights where we need to make progress as an institution.”

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Since STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

“We are very proud to have achieved a Silver rating, and we feel confident that we are well-positioned to earn a Gold rating by the end of this year,” said Coughlan. “We are eager to make continued progress in sustainability, and STARS represents a pathway forward for us to engage our community and facilitate greater collaboration amongst faculty, staff, and students. We look forward to watching our sustainability efforts grow and improve through the STARS program.”

To learn more about CCU’s STARS rating and sustainability initiatives, contact Coughlan at or 843.349.2108.

About AASHE: AASHE is an association of colleges and universities working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development, and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit