Fort Lewis Reaches for Campus Sustainability STARS and Catches Them

Fort Lewis Reaches for Campus Sustainability STARS and Catches Them

67% water conservation, double that of similarly-sized campuses



13% better sustainable purchasing record than peer campuses



STARS 2.0 Bronze rating with clear plans to keep improving


Background: Unable to Measure the Impact

A small campus deeply committed to conservation and social justice, Fort Lewis College had implemented campus sustainability actions under an integrated management model that spread efforts across academics, administration and the student body. But a lack of centralized data tracking and staff resources made it difficult to measure their accomplishments, a common problem in campus sustainability. According to an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) survey, the biggest barrier to STARS participation is lack of such resources.

Solution: The Payoff of Ongoing Campus Sustainability Efforts

Fort Lewis contacted Gordian to conduct an AASHE STARS Operations report and gap analysis. “Working with Gordian allowed us to focus on progressing sustainability work on campus instead of spending all our time collecting data,” says Kathy Hilimire, Sustainability Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Fort Lewis. Gordian streamlined data collection and verification to ease the burden on staff, then used the STARS framework to create a snapshot of Fort Lewis’s baseline performance and goals.  

The analysis captured enough data points across seven metric categories for Fort Lewis to earn a STARS 2.0 Bronze rating. Their existing water conservation and xeriscaping efforts earned Fort Lewis 67% of available points in the Water category, nearly double the average of similarlysized institutions. Sustainable purchasing practices on campus also earned 13% more points than peers. But the gap analysis found significant improvement opportunities in two of the largest categories: Air & Climate and Energy. 

Result: New Initiatives and Plans to Continue Improving

In response, Fort Lewis created an Energy Impact Team to purchase renewable attributes for campus electricity use, install a new photovoltaic system, implement a student-led office audit program, start a light bulb exchange and launch a building-level metering and energy dashboard projectFort Lewis also made progress in Dining by increasing sustainable food purchases 

“Prior to STARS reportingwe lacked the ability to portray an extensive ‘snapshot’ or evidence-based projection of next steps.” – Rachel Landis, Sustainability Coordinator at Fort Lewis’s Environmental Center 

Beyond the numbers, STARS reporting has improved campus sustainability communication across a diverse group of departments, including Grounds, Purchasing and IT. And the conversation continues, says Landis: “This process helped us identify sustainability champions and coach them to spearhead efforts in their departments. This extends our capacity as we step into the support role, trouble-shooting and advising on best practices.” The next step, according to Hilimire and Landis, is to build upward, engaging top-most administrators to pursue additional resources and campus sustainability moving forward. 

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