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Track Our Progress

Penn State is dedicated to tracking its progress in sustainability to improve the University and address its sustainability goals. It may be difficult for Penn State to proceed forward with tangible, sustainable improvements unless we measure our current successes and failures. 

The University has already participated in several sustainability progress assessments, such as the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and the Princeton Review's Green Rating (see brief descriptions below).  We also track additional metrics that are representative of Penn State's unique sustainability goals.

STARS: Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™

STARS Gold award logo

STARS was created using sustainability reports from industry, higher education and government. STARS encompasses long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are taking first steps toward sustainability. In 2014, Penn State received a Gold rating from STARS. How do we know that Penn State is becoming a more sustainable state? In 2011, Penn State received a STARS Silver rating. More about STARS:

Why is Penn State Using STARS?

  • STARS will provide Penn State with a key missing link in our efforts: comprehensive sustainability performance data
  • The ability to measure progress and make better informed resource allocation decisions
  • The ability to benchmark with other similar institutions

STARS Categories

  • Institutional Charicteristics
  • Academics: curriculum; research
  • Enagement: campus engagement; public engagement
  • Operations: air & climate; buildings; dining services; energy; grounds; purchasing; transportation; waste; water
  • Planning & Administration: coordination, planning and governance; diversity & affordability; health, wellbeing & work; investment
  • Innovation

Princeton Review

Princeton Review contains a Green Rating in its annual guide. The Review assembled a panel of experts in higher education and sustainable practices to produce a survey for school administrators. The panel then selected questions and weighted them for the rating. Almost all four-year colleges and universities are invited to participate in the survey. Princeton Review then produces a rating for each participating college based on their responses. Penn State's 2014 Green Rating was 97.


Penn State has received one of the top facilities honors in the country — APPA’s 2014 Sustainability Award. APPA is the professional association of educational facilities in the United States, Canada and abroad. 

The award was introduced in 2012 to reflect APPA’s 2008 Sustainability Statement, which encourages the creation and maintenance of a sustainable campus environment. APPA has developed the criteria based on specific standards and processes applicable to management in educational facilities, including educational curriculum and research; leadership and administration; maintenance and operations; energy and utilities; planning and construction; sustainability indicators and sustainability innovations.

More about Penn State's 2014 APPA Sustainability Award.

National Recycling Coalition

The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) presented Penn State with its 2014 Outstanding Higher Education Award as one of the “Best of the Best.” The University was specifically recognized for its exceptional program in recycling and for “connecting higher education and industry.”

The NRC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing recycling in the U.S. By partnering with its more than 6,000 member organizations, which includes other nonprofits, businesses, trade associations, individuals and government, it strives to ensure a recycling system committed to the conservation of natural resources. 

More about the NRC award.

Sierra Club's "Cool Schools"

The Sierra Club compiles information for its annual “Cool Schools” magazine issue, which rates American colleges and universities according to their environmental practices, green initiatives, and level of sustainability-oriented education. In 2014, Penn State was ranked #48 on the "Cool Schools" list out of 173 higher education institutions. In 2010, Penn State was ranked #80Take a look at Penn State's Sierra Club report from 2010.

Schools are judged on the following categories:

  • Energy Supply: What is the break down of energy types and consumption?
  • Efficiency: What is the efficiency of building and land operations and development?
  • Food: What type of food is made/consumed on campus and where does it come from?
  • Academics: Are there classes, curriculum or research institutions for sustainability?
  • Purchasing: What sustainable purchasing practices (paper, electronics, etc.) are in use?
  • Transportation: How many vehicles are in operation and what are the public transportation options available?
  • Waste Management: What are the waste-diversion rates (recycling, composting, etc.)?
  • Administration: Is environmental sustainability part of the university’s mission; are there sustainability offices?
  • Financial Investments: Do you undertake environmentally responsible investments?
  • Other initiatives: Do you create natural habitats, clean-air buildings, etc.?