Canada beats out US in Sustainable Campus Index

SOURCE: Noah Buscher / Unsplash
Canada has narrowly beaten out the United States when it comes to the sustainability of their university campuses, according to the Sustainable Campus Index.

By U2B Staff 

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Canada has narrowly beaten out the United States when it comes to the sustainability of their university campuses. The neighbour to the north netted an average score of 61.8 on the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI) while the US came in just below at 57.7.

The rankings are an annual publication by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) that recognise individual top-performing colleges and universities. Each institution’s performance is considered on 17 sustainability impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

The organisation is acts as a framework used by hundreds of colleges and universities to measure, report, and strengthen their contributions to global sustainability.

Sustainable Campus Index
Stanford’s student and faculty communities are actively involved in the school’s sustainability initiatives. Source: Stan Olszewski/SOSKIphoto/Sustainable Stanford

Rather than one overall winner, the index considers the type of educational institution, breaking them down into categories.

Topping the ranking for Doctoral Institutions is the world-famous Stanford University with a Platinum rating and a score of 88 points. The California university is closely followed by its southerly neighbour, the University of California, Irvine, coming in second place with 86.8. In third is the University of New Hampshire with 86, followed by Colorado State University with 85.6. Rounding out the top five is the University of Connecticut with a Gold rating and 84.4 points.

Stanford scored particularly high on its curriculum content on sustainability. It achieved 96 percent according to STARS’ rating system thanks to its courses, programmes and learning outcomes in sustainability, as well as living laboratory initiatives, immersive experiences, sustainability literacy and faculty development.


It also reached top marks in campus engagement, assisting students and faculty to integrate sustainability practices into everyday life.

The impacts of Stanford’s sustainability drive are undeniable. From its baseline in 2000, the university has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive 72 percent, energy intensity by 26 percent, water use by 44 percent, and landfill waste by 26 percent.

Considering America dominates the list of most sustainable doctoral institutions, it may be surprising that they didn’t win overall. But Canada does better is lower categories with Thompson Rivers University (TRU) coming top in the Master’s Institutions ranking.

TRU has an office dedicated to making sure the university is sticking to its sustainability goals. They have so far come up with some novel ways to cut carbon.

Sustainable Campus Index
Equipment no longer in use at Stanford are not thrown into landfills – they are stored and either sold off or reused when needed. Source: Stanford Surplus Sales

The campus is now diverting more than 70 percent of its waste stream away from landfills and avoiding fossil fuels for heating – no easy feat in chilly British Columbia. TRU heats uses a biomass system that burns waste wood to heat some of their campus. The remainder if heated with electricity produced from hydropower, wind, and solar. The university is also in the process of transitioning its entire vehicle fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles.

Coming in second for Master’s Institutions, it’s back State side with Pennsylvania’s Chatham University with 81.3 points. They’re followed by Santa Clara University with 76.2, Seattle University with 75.6, and California State University, Northridge in fifth with 74.3.