by Zach Avery, News Editor
In the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) 2020 “Sustainable Campus Index,” Aquinas College was recognized as a top performer in waste minimization and reduction construction, achieving a third-place ranking by earning 80.1%. This is nearly 35% high than the average score of the 900 institutions that participate in this survey. This accomplishment is especially notable as Aquinas College was the only Michigan academic institution to be listed as a top performer in any of the index’s 17 categories.
The top performers in the waste category are characterized by having campaigns or construction that actively reduce the waste flow to landfills that contaminate our water, release greenhouse gases into the air and tend to have disproportionately negative impacts on low-income communities. Aquinas’ pride of the Sustainability program would be the “zero-waste initiative,” which is the campus-wide goal of reaching zero municipal solid waste annually. The hard work that the zero-waste initiative inherently requires has been integrated into the Aquinas community through education, collection systems that are available in every campus building, and resources for students to follow in order to become zero-waste at their own homes. Both Jessica Bowen, the director of the sustainability program at Aquinas, and Meghan Zahniser, the executive director of the AASHE, spoke on the news in a recent publication on the Aquinas website.
“The zero-waste initiative is a prime example of our efforts to graduate students with sustainable life skills,” said Jessica Eimer Bowen, the director of sustainability at Aquinas College. “During their time on campus, students’ understanding of waste becomes more sophisticated, and they begin to minimize waste and become agents of change among peers.”
Campaigns for waste reduction, like the zero-waste initiative, can engage an entire campus community in contributing to tangible sustainability goals.
“Congratulations to Aquinas College for their incredible work in creating a more sustainable world,” said AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser, “Through the leadership and action of change agents within Aquinas College, I’m encouraged and hopeful that a just and equitable society will soon be realized.”
All rankings are determined through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a program developed by the AASHE. The STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges to measure their sustainability performance, and each school is scored on four individual categories: Academics, Engagement, Operation and Planning/Administration. Aquinas was credited at the Silver level, and an area we particularly excelled at was the Academics implementation of sustainability.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus, sustainability efforts,” Zahniser said, “Aquinas College has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”