Stonehill College recently earned a STARS Silver 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 transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.
The in-depth survey, which is 224 pages and took a year to complete, covers everything from campus engagement regarding sustainability initiatives to operations and innovation. Stonehill’s Sustainability Plan, formally published in 2014, set the goal of achieving a STARS Silver Rating in 2018. Through the dedication and corroboration of Stonehill’s students, faculty and staff, the college was able to achieve this goal two years early.
“Our faculty, staff and students came together in a spirit of focused collaboration in order to complete the report, which represents an accurate reflection of the steps our community has taken to increase and expand sustainability measures on our campus,” said Stonehill President John Denning, C.S.C.
For the past two years, Stonehill has been recognized for its commitment to protecting the environment by The Princeton Review and is included its guide to green schools.
Stonehill's increased commitment to the environment is evident in projects ranging from solar energy and water conservation contests to utilizing the College’s Farm to engage students in conversations about sustainability. Many of these projects stemmed from student-led efforts as a growing number of student groups on campus are dedicated to addressing environmental concerns. These groups include the Activism Club, Students for Environmental Action (SEA), the Mindful Living Environmental Action Committee, ENACTUS (Enterprise, Action and Us), Food Truth, and more.
Over the past three years, Stonehill has established many sustainable solutions including:
- Implementation of a campus wide Energy Management System (EMS), which allows for advanced control and monitoring of building heating and cooling Approximately 55% of the College’s gross square footage has at least partial coverage. Between 2012 and 2015, the College reduced its energy intensity (energy use per gross square foot) by more than 10%.
- Growing organic produce using sustainable practices at The Farm at Stonehill and distributing it to local charities in areas where there is limited access to fresh and affordable food.
- Utilizing The Farm as a living laboratory where faculty engage students in issues related to sustainability.
- Providing access to Zipcars on campus for student and employee use.
- Hiring an energy manager.
- Establishing a $10,000 Green Fund which provides funds to improve and encourage sustainability on campus each year.
- Installing new showerheads in residence halls, which saves approximately 4 million gallons of water per year.
- Reducing the use of bottled water on campus via the ”Think Outside the Bottle” Campaign.
- Composting approximately 100 pounds of food per day from dining services.
- Instituting “Grab the Green” week, which features reusable to-go containers.
- Implementing of Single-Stream recycling.
- Installing a 2.7 megawatts solar field residing on 15 acres across from the College’s main campus. The energy produced accounts for roughly 20% of Stonehill’s total electrical usage.
- Installing electric submeters.
- Lighting retrofits.
- Water conservation contests and events.
- Installing electric car charging stations.
In 2012 with encouragement from students, Stonehill became the 12th Catholic college in the United States to sign the St. Francis Pledge, which is a public promise to “protect God’s creation and the environment, and to advocate for those who are impacted the most by global climate change.” Last year, Fr. Denning resigned the pledge.
Additionally, last summer Stonehill joined a number of Catholic colleges and universities world-wide in responding to the Pope’s encyclical on the environment, which represents a call to action in addressing the climate and justice crises threatening the world today.
“With this encyclical, Pope Francis has reminded us that we are all called to be stewards of creation and that caring for the environment means caring for each other, especially the poor and the vulnerable,” said Fr. Denning at the signing ceremony.