Green Campus Spotlight: PSU rises to the top for sustainability performance in research and transportation
Author: Campus Sustainability Office
Posted: November 2, 2015

For more than five years, Portland State has been participating in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a national college and university benchmarking tool for sustainability, maintaining a Gold rating for the University’s practices. This year, STARS released the 2015 Sustainable Campus Index, which for the first time ranked the top five performing institutions in all 17 STARS reporting areas around sustainability. PSU landed in the top five for excellent research and transportation planning.

According to STARS, the research subcategory recognizes institutions that conduct research on sustainability, and top performers include institutions that earned 100 percent of the points possible in this category. PSU scored well because 78 percent of academic departments and 52 percent of faculty are engaged in sustainability research. Additionally, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions supports sustainability research through direct funding, support for grant development, funding for student research positions and more, with areas of focus including urban sustainability, ecosystem services, and social determinants of health. The other top performers in research were Colorado State, Columbia, Florida Gulf Coast, George Washington, and Stanford.

“It’s gratifying to see this recognition for sustainability research from STARS,” said Jonathan Fink, vice president for research and strategic partnerships at PSU. “Sustainability in an urban setting continues to be an area of strategic focus both for Portland and the University. Our strong relationship with the city is supporting the development of groundbreaking research that is readily applicable to the region’s climate action goals.”

Institutions recognized for their efforts in transportation are described as “moving toward sustainable transportation systems to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and promote human health.” At PSU, 78 percent of students and 72 percent of employees are using sustainable commuting options to get to campus (walking, bicycling, carpooling, transit, etc.), and PSU has numerous programs that promote alternatives to driving alone. A few examples include secure bike storage and other facilities for bike commuters, reduced-cost transit passes, and incentives for carpooling. Columbia, Loyola, Stanford, and Dalhousie Universities were the other top performers in this category. In 2015, PSU was named a Platinum-Level Bike Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by STARS for our efforts to promote sustainable transportation at PSU, particularly as an urban university with a high ratio of commuters to residents,” said Ian Stude, Director for Transportation & Parking Services at PSU. “We continue to strive for further reductions in single-occupancy vehicle trips to campus and greater utilization of sustainable transportation options. Best of all, our success enables PSU to build less parking spaces and more classrooms, laboratories, and living spaces designed to meet our core mission.”

The STARS program helps everyone working on sustainability at PSU to better measure progress and identify areas for improvement while also learning from other institutions. Moreover, because it casts a wide net for what forms sustainability takes on a university campus, the program encourages collaboration across various departments and highlights contributions to sustainability that may not have been previously recognized. We are proud to have earned a Gold rating for three consecutive program evaluations. PSU’s full STARS report is available online.