UCI News

UCI becomes two-time recipient of STARS Platinum rating for sustainability efforts

Rare recognition secures its place among world’s environmentally outstanding institutions

November 1, 2021
UCI becomes two-time recipient of STARS Platinum rating for sustainability efforts
Among its many sustainability achievements, UCI has been designated as a Tree Campus USA through the Arbor Day Foundation since 2010 for its efforts in establishing and maintaining an urban tree canopy, such as the one in Aldrich Park. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Nov. 1, 2021 — For a second time, the University of California, Irvine has achieved a rare platinum rating through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, maintaining its status as one of the environmentally outstanding universities in the world.

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

UCI is one of only four universities to be two-time recipients of the STARS Platinum rating – its previous one earned in 2018. The campus’s 2021 sustainability report got the highest score of any institution ever: 88.59 points.

“We’re gratified that UCI’s interdisciplinary research, our community engagement on critical sustainability issues, and our operational practices centered on environmental and social responsibility have been recognized once again through STARS,” said Wendell Brase, UCI’s associate chancellor for sustainability. “This represents another important environmental stewardship milestone for the University of California and reflects the collaborative efforts of many engaged and committed people across the UCI campus.”

The STARS score for UCI is based on a comprehensive evaluation of overall environmental performance, including scientific research, environmental programs, academic courses, community engagement and sustainable campus operations. STARS encompasses 20 topic areas with more than 1,200 quantitative and qualitative measurements. Among other achievements, UCI boasts the following:

  • Only campus in the nation to have been ranked among Sierra magazine’s top 10 “Coolest Schools” for 12 consecutive years; ranked first in the nation five times (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020)
  • Committed to the University of California’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, having reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 22,000 metric tons annually
  • Recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy for being the first educational institution to surpass former President Barack Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge goal of improving energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020, exceeding this goal seven years early
  • 32 LEED-certified buildings: 21 LEED Platinum – the most for new construction in the U.S. – and 11 LEED Gold
  • Designated as a Tree Campus USA through the Arbor Day Foundation since 2010 for its efforts in establishing and sustaining an urban tree canopy
  • Certified as a Bee Campus USA through a student-led program to educate the campus community about the environmental importance and decline of bees and other pollinators essential to food security
  • First campus in the nation to convert its biodiesel shuttle fleet to an all-electric bus fleet (20 vehicles), which provides more than 2 million student rides per year
  • 80 percent campus waste diversion rate, the highest in the UC system
  • 90 percent of campus landscaping and air conditioning uses recycled water – highly treated wastewater from showers, toilets, sinks, dishwashers, etc.
  • Among the inaugural U.S. cohort to adopt the Okanagan Charter, recognizing a dedication to infusing health and well-being into the campus environment

UCI is a leader in sustainability learning too, both inside and outside the classroom. More than 30 percent of UCI faculty (475 individuals) in 97 percent of academic departments conduct sustainability-related research, providing a broad range of co-curricular opportunities for students – many of whom are the first in their families to attend college – to gain an understanding of important global challenges and establish a lifelong ethos of sustainability.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “UCI has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Platinum rating and is to be congratulated for its efforts.”

Other campuses that have had their platinum status renewed are Colorado State University, Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire.

To view UCI’s full STARS report, visit https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/university-of-california-irvine-ca/report/2021-08-11.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more.