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UWRF collects student input to reach sustainability goals

February 8, 2022

UW-River Falls is conducting the Sustainability Survey 2022 as part of a series of efforts to promote sustainability on campus. The survey allows students to choose which sustainability goals the university should prioritize. 

These goals fall under a wide variety of categories, such as buildings and grounds, food and dining, transportation, diversity and affordability, and others. The survey was distributed on Jan. 28, and students will be able to complete it up until Feb. 15. 

Mark Klapatch-Mathias, Sustainability Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability said, “The campus wants us to be more sustainable, but how we actually get there is what we need to figure out. So our survey is really aimed at trying to get some of that feedback.”

Sustainability efforts on campus are reported under the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System report, or STARS. STARS is conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, for campuses worldwide.

Klapatch-Mathias said, “The report gives us a very solid benchmark of all the things we're doing and all of the things we are not doing in terms of sustainability.” 

STARS rates campuses on sustainability with four main tiers: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. In 2018, UW-River Falls obtained a gold STARS rating; however, in 2021, this rating was bumped down to silver.

Klapatch-Mathias said, “some of that is simply because we just haven't done things on campus or things have changed priorities.” Modifications to the STARS criteria also affected the rating. “Ultimately,” Klapatch-Mathias said, “we are still a very, very high STARS silver.” 

Now, the campus is looking to return to a gold rating and perhaps even obtain a platinum rating. Currently, no universities in the UW system or in Wisconsin in general hold a platinum rating. “I do think we could be a STARS platinum institution,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “It will really take a concentrated effort by our campus, which includes funding and support.”

The university is taking steps toward this goal in a few ways. “Sustainability has been included in UWRF’s Strategic Plan and the Academic Plan,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “So those new documents have very strong sustainability ties to them.”

The Sustainability Survey 2022 is another of these steps the university is taking. “Our hope is that over the next few weeks, we'll get a better idea of what our campus community wants to see happen for sustainability,” Klapatch-Mathias said. 

Following the survey, the university is planning to revise its Sustainable Campus Community Plan by the end of March. The Sustainable Campus Community Plan is UWRF’s strategic plan for sustainability on campus, and has not been changed since 2012.

 “There are a lot of things that we could do that would improve our score,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “I think if we even did a handful of those, we'd be back up to STARS gold in a heartbeat. As far as platinum, I think probably five to 10 years would be the time frame if we really just keep gaining traction. But I do think platinum is possible for us."

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