ECU recognized for sustainability achievements

East Carolina University has 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 and rating system, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

ECU’s commitment to good stewardship of its resources is integrated throughout the first ECU Sustainability Plan, which was adopted in October 2018 and presents a charge “to provide leadership in fostering a culture of sustainability at ECU and demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of a very diverse people and environment in eastern North Carolina.” This vision for sustainability is reflected in the programs and practices described in the STARS report.

East Carolina University Sustainability Manager Chad Carwein works with a bee hive frame during ECU's 202 Earth Day activities.

East Carolina University Sustainability Manager Chad Carwein works with a bee hive frame during ECU’s 202 Earth Day activities. (ECU photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU’s last STARS submission in 2020 predated the pandemic, which affected campus sustainability.

First, the university saw significant reductions in energy and water consumption, as well as waste production on campus. Next, it became apparent that some jobs can be done from home and not all conferences, meetings and events need to be attended in person, which lowered greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting and outsourced travel. Finally, the sustainability-related student groups on campus thrived rather than just survived the pandemic. In fact, ECU added multiple new sustainability student organizations in the past three years, and a few of the sustainability groups won the highest awards for student organizations just last year.

The STARS report also highlights where there is room for improvement and a need for additional programs, policies and initiatives to continue to advance the culture of sustainability at ECU.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE executive director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “ECU 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 Chad Carwein, ECU sustainability manager.

ECU’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website.