Students’ real-world experiences in sustainability at heart of Virginia Tech’s Gold STARS rating
April 12, 2021
Virginia Tech has earned a Gold rating for its outstanding sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System (STARS) is the most recognized framework for reporting university sustainability performance across academics, engagement, operations, administration, innovation, and leadership.
This is the fifth time Virginia Tech has earned STARS distinction. Virginia Tech uses STARS as the primary management tool to measure sustainability progress.
“Virginia Tech values its partnership with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and is proud to be a charter participant in the STARS program. STARS is a premier sustainability management tool and it serves as the foundation of our sustainability programming. The Gold rating for 2020 reflects Virginia Tech’s well-rounded sustainability achievements,” said Denny Cochrane, director of sustainability.
The Office of Sustainability, within the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, manages the submission process, which requires extensive preparation and campuswide input.
Virginia Tech attained especially high marks for the intentional integration of sustainability into academics and the range of environmental stewardship engagement opportunities available to students.
Where the classroom and real world converge, a dynamic sustainability ecosystem is flourishing at Virginia Tech. This environment continues to offer students exceptional opportunities to gain practical knowledge and hands-on experience to address one of the world’s most pressing challenges: climate change.
Students are able to apply the skill sets they amass — in water conservation, green energy, environmental engineering, and more — to make positive change both on campus today and in their careers and lives beyond Virginia Tech.
The Office of Sustainability Internship Program, now in its 11th year, empowers students with a framework and skills to advance environmentally-focused initiatives within university operations and in the surrounding community.
Intern teams leverage the Blacksburg campus as a living-learning laboratory, partnering with leaders from Energy Management, Stormwater Management, Dining Services, and more, to conceptualize and implement innovative projects that help reduce the university’s environmental impact.
Over the past decade, the Office of Sustainability’s Green Request for Proposals (RFP) program has offered students the chance to gain exposure to sustainability, project management, technical writing, communications, and the university governance process.
Supplied with dedicated mentorship from university faculty and staff, students have applied their learnings to catalyze 83 student-generated university-funded sustainability projects on the Blacksburg campus. New LED lighting, solar-powered charging tables, bike corrals, and water bottle refill stations are all among the Green RFP projects in action today.
Currently, more than 900 courses and 67 departments at Virginia Tech incorporate sustainability concepts. A multitude of these courses also include labs to help students put knowledge into practice.
Take a recent Arboriculture Field Skills class within the College of Natural Resources and Environment, for example. Under the canopy of a historic oak on the Drillfield, alongside University Arborist Jamie King, Associate Professor Eric Wiseman of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, and a local arboriculturist, students became well-versed in tree preservation techniques through hands-on demonstrations.
Within the Pamplin College of Business, management students recently helped combat the illegal timber trade through a semester-long consulting project in partnership with the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. Students provided their real-world start-up client with managerial insights that will help the client advance their mission on a global scale.
Bolstering student engagement in sustainability is a key tenet in the newly-approved 2020 Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment. Building upon a decade of environmental stewardship efforts, the commitment provides a Virginia Tech-specific, actionable framework for advancing climate action and energy efficiency in campus operations, academics, research, and more.
The 2020 commitment calls for continued integration of sustainability into Virginia Tech’s educational mission and involving more student, employee, and community voices into climate action planning efforts.
To achieve this, the Office of Sustainability will continue to collaborate closely with student social and climate justice organizations and governance groups to engage more students in sustainability programming, public outreach activities, and other opportunities that help support sustainable decision making at Virginia Tech.
Learn more about the pathways prescribed in the 2020 Climate Action Commitment that will help ensure a more sustainable Virginia Tech for years to come.
Virginia Tech’s 2021 STARS report is available on the STARS website.
- 2020 Climate Action Commitment delivers pathways toward a sustainable future at Virginia Tech
- Comprehensive Waste Management Plan outlines pathways for achieving university waste management, recycling goals
- Virginia Tech recognized among best workplaces for commuters in 2021