Unity College tops in U.S. for financial sustainability

Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education lauds Maine college

UNITY, Maine — Unity College is the top U.S. college for sustainability in the area of investment and finance and rates third in energy, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The AASHE 2016 Sustainable Campus Index recognizes top-performing colleges and universities overall and in 17 distinct aspects of sustainability, measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). The Index also highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from institutions that submitted STARS reports in the year prior to July 1.

“Sustainability can be a bit of a buzzword these days, but Unity College and AASHE are united in a vital mission: to integrate sustainability in every aspect of higher education — from operational, to academics, to financial — in order to ensure future generations have the same or greater opportunities as we did,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “We are proud of our STARS rating. This independent review demonstrates that Unity College is in it for our students, and our planet, over the long haul.

“Sustainability is not an add-on at Unity College,” Khoury said. “It’s what we do. Our mission is to ensure the sustainability of this planet. At Unity College, we act with a great sense of urgency. We strive to think, work, and live sustainably.”

Unity College Chief Sustainability Officer Jennifer deHart said Unity College, a longtime AASHE member, recently reaffirmed its membership by attending its annual conference, committing to attend training sessions, and constantly striving to implement best campus practices.

“This recognition is still more proof that Unity College understands the importance of developing institutional sustainability strategies,” deHart said. “That’s why almost all of our senior leaders — the president, chief academic officer, chief information officer, chief of staff, chief sustainability officer, chief student success officer, chief fundraising officer, and chief budget officer — have attended the AASHE Annual Conference in the past two years,” deHart said.

Founded in 2006 as more and more higher education institutions sought greater sustainability support, AASHE offers a range of resources, including its influential Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) rating system.

STARS provides a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities — from community colleges to research universities, and from institutions just starting their sustainability programs to long-time sustainability leaders — to measure their sustainability performance. Some 786 institutions have registered to use the STARS Reporting Tool.

Unity College earned a Gold rating in 2014 and the next submission is due in 2017. Khoury said Unity College is striving to earn a Platinum rating by 2019.

Many of the elements in STARS are used in other important rankings.

For example, based in part on STARS data, Unity College was listed among the Top 10 colleges nationally in two important categories — No. 10 for Food and No. 5 for Academics — on Sierra magazine’s latest list of “Cool Schools.”

“The institutions and initiatives featured in this year’s Sustainable Campus Index showcase the great work that higher education institutions are doing to lead the global sustainability transformation,” AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser said. “Unity College is to be commended for leading the way on finance and investment initiatives that ensure the survival of an important institution of higher education.”

About Unity College

The first institution of higher education in the nation to divest from fossil fuel investments, Unity College is committed to educating the next generation of environmental professionals. Sustainability science lies at the heart of its educational mission, with 16 environmentally focused undergraduate majors and an M.S. of Professional Science degree offered online. For more information, visit unity.edu.

About AASHE

AASHE empowers higher education administrators, faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE enables members to translate information into action by offering essential resources and professional development to a diverse, engaged community of sustainability leaders. The group works with and for higher education to ensure the world’s future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges. For more information, visit www.aashe.org.

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