Two female students study on the lawn

University of Louisville students, faculty and staff continue to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

News arrived this spring that UofL was ranked highest in Kentucky in a key sustainability measure, the international Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

“UofL’s unwavering commitment to the health of our planet is another reason to be proud of this institution, but this is not the time to remain idle,” said Neeli Bendapudi, UofL president. “We will and we must continue this hard work to ensure a bright future. I am so proud of our faculty, staff and students who are devoted to this issue for the university and in their daily lives.”

STARS, part of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), relies on institutions to report the steps they are taking regarding environmental, social and economic stewardship. Schools’ ratings are valid for three years, and the total points they earn result in awards that range from platinum (highest) to bronze.

UofL scored 66.24 for 2019, a 1% increase since UofL’s last STARS rating in 2016 and the highest rating for any college or university in Kentucky. The score also notched UofL’s second consecutive gold award. UofL ranks fourth among ACC schools with a STARS rating.

“This is the fourth STARS report we have submitted since 2011 and we continue to increase our score each time,” said Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives. “Our new score puts UofL in the top 100 most sustainable schools on the planet. We can attribute this progress to the ongoing commitment of our university’s administration, faculty, staff and students to this increasingly important issue.”

Among the efforts that helped push UofL to the top were the new Green Heart Project, the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research and our annual maple-tapping project on campus.

Recycling still a priority

With a gold STARS rating on our side, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that recycling remains a priority at UofL.

Our participation in the North American RecycleMania competition in February and March resulted in a No. 1 ranking in Kentucky in two categories: diversion and per capita. We recycled 57.6% of our trash overall for the eight-week period, or 16.8 pounds per person.

Additionally, the Sustainability Council recently issued UofL’s 2018 Recycling Report, showing UofL last year recycled or composted more than 6.5 million pounds of waste, or slightly more than half our total waste.

UofL’s composting efforts, begun in 2010 and run by philosophy lecturer Brian Barnes, will expand this fall with the addition of a student intern to manage worm composting operations. 

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Janet Cappiello covers the College of Business, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, the College of Education and Human Development, the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Sustainability Council and military initiatives for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism, including working for The Associated Press and magazines such as Vegetarian Times and Sustainability: The Journal of Record. She has been at UofL since March 2014.