San Jose State University STARS Assessment 2011:

AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating Report

  • Executive Summary
  • Summary of Points Earned by SJSU

View the San Jose State University STARS Assessment 2011 Report [PDF]

Executive Summary

Sustainability, as defined by the Brundtland Commission in 1987, means "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Often times, the concept of sustainability is interpreted in practices as integrating the "Three E's" of environment, economics, and equity into our plans and actions. Sustainability holds special significance to San José State University and our fellow institutions of higher learning, since a large part of our job is educating our students on what it means to think and behave sustainably. Helping our students understand the inter-relationships between human systems that include product development, global economics, consumer behavior, and waste management, and their effect on natural systems, makes them better critical thinkers. It also makes them better problem solvers and provides a strong foundation for taking leadership roles in our community. Today, it does not matter whether you are majoring in Organization and Management or Art and Design—sustainability matters in all fields. In fact, having graduates who are "sustainability literate" is increasingly important to major employers of our alumni, which include the City of San José, Adobe, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and other prominent organizations in the Silicon Valley.

Another important function of the University is to practice what it teaches. For sustainability, this means minimizing the ecological footprint of the physical campus and making an operational commitment to address important sustainability topics such as green building, climate change, water conservation, and waste minimization.

In 2009, the University became a signatory to the Taillores Declaration, an international compact signed by over 350 universities in over 40 countries. This document commits SJSU to sustainability as an institution. In 2010, the Academic Senate voted to establish a Sustainability Board, a representative body responsible for setting SJSU's sustainability goals and monitoring progress towards their achievement. Conducting the sustainability audit that you will be reading about is an important step in recognizing and realizing the potential for sustainability on campus. In the following pages, you will see how we performed in aspects of sustainability ranging from the number of courses we offer that are focused on sustainability to the percentage of on-campus food that comes from local sources.

We are happy to report that in its inaugural year, SJSU earned a Silver rating, indicating that overall our sustainability efforts have been good. Strengths we should be proud of include the following:

  1. Breadth of sustainability course offerings- of our 62 departments, 40 (64%) offer at least one course related to or focused on sustainability. Altogether, our students have 328 such courses available to them.
  2. Depth of faculty involved in sustainability research- important work on pressing sustainability issues of the day, from climate change education to organic gardening, is taking place in departments all across campus. Over half of all our departments have at least one faculty member active in sustainability research. This accounts for 18% of our tenure and tenure track faculty members.
  3. Student involvement- at least nine student organizations are focused on sustainability education and activism, reaching over 19,000 students a year.
  4. Transportation- 59% of students and 49% of employees use alternative transportation (e.g., bike, bus, train) to come to campus.
  5. Food- almost 24% of our food is purchased from local sources.
  6. Energy – over the five year period from 2005 to 2010, total building energy use was reduced from 447,049 MMBtu to 427,507 MMBtu.
  7. Human Resources and Diversity—our policies and programs demonstrate leadership in the CSU. We ensure our employees are paid and treated fairly and that respect for and celebration of diversity is an everyday practice.
  8. Innovation- the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Green Wave energy auditing program demonstrate how SJSU has successfully partnered with the City of San José on shared sustainability goals of strengthening the community with the City of San José.

And while our overall rating was good, the audit reveals several areas where significant efforts are needed for us to be on par with peer institutions and for us to be in sync with the needs of important Valley employers and partners. To improve, more attention is needed in the following areas:

  1. Climate Change Strategy and Planning, and Policy -while several University or CSU policies and guidance documents exist on specific areas of sustainability (e.g., procurement, energy conservation), the University lacks a comprehensive framework that has the support of top administration. Most universities at the forefront of sustainability have such policies in place.
  2. Ensuring Student Sustainability literacy- about 60% of our students graduate from SJSU without a guaranteed basic understanding of sustainability issues and solutions.
  3. Sustainability in New Student and New Employee Orientation- students, faculty, and staff have opportunities to engage in sustainability workshops and events on campus, but only if they know about them. Incorporating short but informative sustainability modules into orientation and training can get everyone off to the right start and strengthen the culture of sustainability that we are building on campus.
  4. Having LEED-Certified Buildings- the LEED standard has been recognized across the U.S. as the mark of a green building. For SJSU to be considered a resource for green technology, the university should make its own commitment manifest in new and existing buildings.
  5. Continuing Support of Current Sustainability Efforts- with a new administration in place, it is important to provide support and resources for people and projects that enabled us to earn a Silver rating in the first place. Our current rating is good for three years, at which time we hope that SJSU can build upon its achievements to date.

This report contains a number of useful and practical recommendations (with resources on where to get more information) that we can start working on today. When implemented, they will make our campus a model of sustainability in Silicon Valley and beyond. San Jose State University STARS Report 2011 Davis Langdon, An AECOM Company 5

This means that each of us—every student, faculty, staff, and community member—should consider what sustainability means to us, and how we might incorporate some of these recommendations into our lives. If you are inspired after reading this report, I encourage you to contact a Sustainability Board member and see how you can participate. We welcome your input and support.

In appreciation,
Katherine Cushing, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
Director of Sustainability in the Office of the President (AY 09-10 and AY 10-11)
Anne Marie Todd, Ph.D., Professor of Communication Studies Chair, University Sustainability Board
Adam Bayer, Director, Energy and Utilities Member, Sustainability Board

Summary of Points Earned by SJSU

STARS is a voluntary self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to gauge progress toward sustainability and to be recognized for sustainability leadership. The overall STARS score is earned by taking an average of the three main STARS categories and then adding any additional innovation points earned. The three main categories in the STARS rating system are:

  1. Education & Research
  2. Operations
  3. Planning, Administration & Engagement

Each STARS category is broken up into subcategories, each of which covers a different area of focus. The subcategories are broken up into different credits, and points are earned by meeting the criteria stated in a particular credit. Each credit is scored as outlined in the STARS Technical Manual. Tier One credits are worth between 1 and 14 points. All Tier Two credits are worth 0.25 points.

In addition to the three main categories, institutions can earn up to four additional innovation points. Innovation points allow institutions to recognize areas of advancement that are not covered by any of the STARS credits within the three main categories. To qualify for an innovation point, the institution must identify a path-breaking practice and/or performance that is not covered by other STARS credits or that exceed the highest criterion of a current STARS credit. The following table demonstrates how the STARS score of 50.52 was earned by San Jose State University:

 STARS Categories    SJSU Points Earned
 Education and Research    54.28 points
 Operations    38.99 points
 Planning, Administration & Engagement    52.28 points
 Innovation Points Earned:    +2 points
 FINAL SCORE:    50.52 points

A detailed break-down of the scores and discussion for each category are found in the San Jose State University STARS Assessment 2011, located on the SJSU Sustainability Board website or download it here, San Jose State University STARS Assessment 2011 Report [PDF].