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Cornell earns second consecutive gold STARS rating

The road to green is paved in gold -- for the second consecutive year, Cornell has earned a gold rating from STARS, higher education's Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.

Cornell received a 70.58 rating for 2012 and was one of 47 schools earning gold status out of 241 rated schools. No school earned a platinum rating. In 2011 Cornell had a 66.13 rating and was one of 24 schools to receive gold out of 152 schools submitting reports.

STARS is a self-reporting system for colleges and universities to compare themselves with peer institutions. It is the only comprehensive assessment tool designed for higher education.

In STARS' Planning, Administration and Engagement category, the university scored 82.43, compared with the average of 73.53 among other gold-rated schools. In the Operation category, Cornell tallied a 50.85 score, compared with a 46.78 average for other gold-rated colleges.

From 2011 to 2012, Cornell's score in the Education and Research category rose from 59.88 to 66.46.

Dan Roth, Cornell's associate director for campus sustainability, says that to improve the STARS score, there are three categories for which the campus can focus: additional water conservation; developing LEED policies for operations and maintenance of existing buildings; and increased endowment investments in renewable and sustainable industries.

Key highlights for sustainability efforts at Cornell include reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent since 2010; an increase in purchasing Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish and local beef for Cornell Dining; and increasing the number of faculty involved in sustainability research.

Other changes since 2011 include increased participation in employee sustainability programs, bolstered waste diversion rates, improved handling of construction and demolition waste, more LEED-certified buildings, reduced campus energy consumption, a pilot program using LED lighting in elevators, and a new biannual course, Sustainable Lifestyle Practices.

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John Carberry