University College Cork (UCC) is the first university outside the US to receive a sustainability award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
The university received a gold award for AASHE’s ‘Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System’ (STARS) program, the second highest accolade that can be received.
This comes only a year into the 2017-2022 UCC Sustainability Strategy which aims to increase the sustainability of the university and improve their position as one of the world’s leading green universities.
The strategy is being implemented by the Green Campus Committee and Green Campus Forum in UCC and focuses on sustainability initiatives concerned with Energy, Waste and Recycling, Water, Travel and Commuting, Biodiversity and other areas of relevance.
The STARS program measures how sustainable development in these areas is included in teaching and research activities, engagement with students and staff, and in areas of operations, planning and administration.
As Ireland’s greenest university in the UI Green Metric World University Rankings and the country’s first university to achieve the government’s 33% energy efficiency target, UCC Deputy President and Chair of UCC Green Forum, Professor John O’Halloran told the Irish Examiner: “We are thrilled that we have received this accolade for our student-led, research-informed, practice focused sustainability agenda at UCC.”
“This accolade speaks to the priority UCC places on sustainability to enable our students and staff to meet the global challenges of the 21st century.”
When asked if AASHE’s STARS program is something that DCU would get involved in, DCU’s Sustainable Living Society said that “future participation is likely but the main focus at the moment is to eliminate single-use plastic on campus.”
DCU’s Stainability Officer, Samantha Fahy reaffirmed this saying that while the program has “considerable time and resource implications I would hope that we would get involved over the coming year.”
She also said that AASHE Campus Sustainability Research Award winner 2018 and DCU PhD graduate Dr. Frida Agbor Besong has been “working closely with the Associate Professor in DCU’s Institute of Education, Dr. Charlotte Holland, on sustainability in the curriculum at DCU to explore how sustainability could be could be integrated in higher education.”
“The higher education sustainability community continues to stay focused on work that contributes toward a thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world” and she is happy “we can recognise the innovation and leadership demonstrated by this year’s finalists,” Executive Director for AASHE Meghan Fay Zahniser said.
By Aoife O’Brien
Image credit: William Murphy