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CCU earns STARS Gold rating for sustainability achievements

February 28, 2023

Coastal Carolina University has earned a STARS Gold 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 a program of AASHE that measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

This 2022 submission marks an upward achievement from last year, advancing the campus from Silver to Gold. In particular, this report better captures the range and depth of sustainability initiatives on campus and in the classroom.

CCU’s 70.62-point score is the highest among South Carolina public colleges and universities, and second in the state only to Furman University, a private institution. The results highlight CCU’s leadership in academic programs and courses that address sustainability, as well as research and scholarships. The STARS score also reflects the strength of CCU’s sustainability programming and outreach, as well as experiential learning opportunities available to students, faculty, and staff.

With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework for publicly reporting comprehensive information on a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics; engagement; operations; planning and administration; and innovation and leadership.

“The report itself is a result of deep and meaningful collaboration between campus stakeholders committed to the work of sustainability on our campus and beyond,” said Steve Harrison, CCU’s vice president for auxiliary enterprises and chief sustainability officer. “This achievement is a vital reflection of CCU’s continued commitment to sustainability.”

Certified in January 2023, the STARS results were the culmination of a year’s worth of data collection, surveys, and other research led by Darcy Coughlan, CCU’s Sustain Coastal associate director.

“Our team is thrilled to have reached STARS Gold,” said Coughlan. “This rating reflects the sustainability progress made over the past year through initiatives such as the completion of the University’s first comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory and the establishment of a sustainability grant at CCU. It would not have been possible without the valuable contributions of many departments across campus, and the President’s Council for Sustainability and Coastal Resilience.”

CCU earned perfect STARS scores for its sustainability and coastal resilience undergraduate degree program. An inventory of CCU’s academic courses found that 21% of all courses are sustainability-inclusive, leading to a near-perfect score in this category. The University also earned high scores on institutional support for sustainability-focused research, as well as the number of faculty engaged in sustainability-related research.

Perfect scores were earned in the Campus as a Living Laboratory category, which assesses how the institution provides opportunities for students to engage in projects in various areas (e.g. building, food and dining, water), to increase their overall understanding of sustainability. CCU also scored well for its campus engagement initiatives such as the Eco-Reps – student peer-educators for sustainability outreach and educational programs – and community partnerships to advance sustainability.

CCU aims to continue fostering a sustainable and equitable campus and improving upon STARS performance areas. One initiative already in progress is the development of a Climate Action Plan to lower and offset the University’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Click here to see the full STARS Report.