American University of Sharjah (AUS) has earned a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). This makes AUS the highest-rated university in the GCC region.
The move from a Bronze to a Silver rating demonstrates the university’s continuous commitment to promote sustainable practices throughout its academic and operational activities. AUS Sustainability, the campus department dedicated to realizing the university’s strategic sustainability goals, collaborates with all university stakeholders to implement solutions that promote sustainable living and working on campus and beyond.
Speaking about the importance of this achievement, Rose Armour, Head of AUS Sustainability, said: “Incorporating sustainability is vital to higher education for two reasons. First, sustainability will play a role in each of our students’ futures, in both their professional and personal life, so they need to understand the concepts and impacts of actions as they pertain to climate change and social justice.”
“This is part of our commitment to preparing our students to be engaged and become effective members of society.”
“Second, students are seeking out sustainability in the classroom and in campus activities. They want to see and be proud of what is happening at AUS,” Armour added.
The new AUS rating was achieved following a rigorous process to meet STARS’ points-based system of benchmarking efforts at sustainability in four comprehensive areas: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning and Administration.
The new rating is a testimony to the impact of the work of AUS Sustainability with the university community, particularly the student EcoReps.
“We could not have made all the progress we did, as we almost doubled our score, without the help and commitment of our EcoReps. The outreach work they do with students is so valuable, they are true role models in our community. We have been so impressed with the work and impact of the EcoReps that we will be expanding the program this year and hiring EcoReps that will focus specifically on the residential halls,” explained Armour.
Established in 2018, the AUS EcoRep program empowers enthusiastic students with a desire to promote sustainable change on campus to educate their student peers on issues related to waste reduction, energy conservation, diversity and other sustainability-related issues.
“AUS has earned a Silver rating as a result of the culmination of many small actions, whether professors incorporating sustainability into their classroom, students choosing to do research on sustainability and climate change, or AUS installing electric car recharging stations and offering free counselling services at the health clinic,” Armour said.
“Everything has an impact, and everything adds up. We should never forget that each action we take, even if small, becomes a part of our overall impact as a community.”
“This is not to say that larger, bolder actions such as our single-use plastic ban are not needed, but we are all a part of AUS’s journey towards sustainability. Every action counts,” added Armour.
The university is widely recognized for its many sustainability initiatives. In 2020, AUS became the Gulf region’s first university to begin to remove single-use plastics across its campus, with all campus vendors banned from providing petroleum-based single-use items such as takeaway containers, plastic bags and others.
Additionally, the AUS Engineering and Sciences Building has been awarded the highly sought-after 2 Pearl rating by Estidama, a sustainable development initiative of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. AUS also received the Green Audit Award as part of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency’s Sustainable Campus Initiative for university students.
With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: 1) academics 2) engagement, 3) operations, 4) planning and administration, and 5) innovation and leadership.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser.
“AUS has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”
The program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because 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 STARS Silver rating for our sustainability accomplishments. We look forward to watching our sustainability efforts grow and improve through the STARS program,” said Armour.