CSU Channel Islands recently earned a silver rating for its environmentally friendly practices from the nation’s leading advocacy group for sustainability in higher education.

The rating, awarded by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s STARS® (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) program, signifies that CI is doing a good job of going “green” in areas ranging from curriculum and construction to conservation of resources.

“We call ourselves a ‘green’ campus, and this validated that we’re doing things sustainably here,” said John Gormley, campus architect and director of planning, design and construction. “It also demonstrated we’re on the right track in identifying areas for future improvement.”

The university’s rating was the result of a thorough, yearlong self-evaluation process that involved staff, faculty and students.

CI is one of more than 250 universities participating in the STARS program — and among the first 70 to complete the evaluation. STARS is the only sustainability self-assessment tool that helps colleges evaluate and publicly report how they’re doing, where they can improve, what peers are doing and mark progress over time.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” AASHE Executive Director Paul Rowland said. “CSU Channel Islands has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS silver rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

Examples of some of CI’s highest-rated sustainable practices include:

» Water conservation — CI irrigates the campus entirely with reclaimed water and uses drought-tolerant landscaping, low-flow faucets and toilets, and waterless urinals.

» Energy efficiency — CI reduced energy use on campus 20 percent in the past two years.

» Curriculum and research — Roughly 30 percent of courses offered focus on or relate to sustainability. Nearly 33 percent of the tenure-track faculty is involved in sustainability-related research.

» Waste reduction — CI has programs to reduce student move-out waste through swap meets, donations and recycling. Many materials, such as student orientation packets, are offered electronically.

» Human resources, diversity and affordability — CI scored high in areas such as employee compensation and satisfaction, as well as in promoting diversity and affordability for its students.

With the evaluation complete, Gormley says CI is already hard at work on advancing its next sustainability initiatives. The next priority is creating a Climate Action Plan that outlines how the university will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the short and long term.

“As a public institution, we have a moral responsibility to be leaders in this effort to educate the next generations on ways to be in balance with the environment,” he said.

CI joins 52 other institutions that have completed the STARS assessment in receiving a silver rating, including California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Fourteen colleges achieved a gold rating and 15 earned a bronze rating.

— Nancy Gill is the director of communication and marketing for CSU Channel Islands.