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Research Guides

Sustainability Teaching & Learning

Find links to library materials about integrating Sustainability into Teaching and Learning --and brief information about Hamline's AASHE STARS membership and rating system.

STARS Categories

Hamline uses the AASHE STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) for tracking and reporting sustainability work.

Here are the main categories:

From Getting Started with STARS


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that have formal education programs and courses that address sustainability. One of the primary functions of colleges and universities is to educate students. By training and educating future leaders, scholars, workers and professionals, higher education institutions are uniquely positioned to prepare students to understand and address sustainability challenges. Institutions that offer courses covering sustainability issues help equip their students to lead society to a sustainable future." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 30)

Research and Scholarship

"This credit recognizes institutions where faculty and staff are conducting research and other forms of scholarship on sustainability topics. Conducting an inventory of an institution’s sustainability research can serve as a valuable first step in identifying strengths and areas for development. Likewise, since sustainability requires collaboration that transcends traditional disciplines, conducting an inventory can help connect individuals, laboratories, research centers, and other campus community members with a shared interest in sustainability. The percentage of research faculty and staff and departments that are engaged in sustainability research are measures of the spread of sustainability research." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 64)

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Jan. 2017). STARS Technical Manual, version 2.1, Administrative Update Two. Retrieved from​

Campus Engagement

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that provide their students with sustainability learning experiences outside the formal curriculum. Engaging in sustainability issues through co-curricular activities allows students to deepen and apply their understandings of sustainability principles. Institution-sponsored cocurricular sustainability offerings, often coordinated by student affairs offices, help integrate sustainability into the campus culture and set a positive tone for the institution. In addition, this subcategory recognizes institutions that support faculty and staff engagement, training, and development programs in sustainability. Faculty and staff members’ daily decisions impact an institution’s sustainability performance. Equipping faculty and staff with the tools, knowledge, and motivation to adopt behavior changes that promote sustainability is an essential activity of a sustainable campus." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 75)

Public Engagement

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that help catalyze sustainable communities through public engagement, community partnerships and service. Engagement in community problem-solving is fundamental to sustainability. By engaging with community members and organizations in the governmental, non-profit and for-profit sectors, institutions can help solve sustainability challenges. Community engagement can help students develop leadership skills while deepening their understandings of practical, real-world problems and the process of creating solutions. Institutions can contribute to their communities by harnessing their financial and academic resources to address community needs and by engaging community members in institutional decisions that affect them. In addition, institutions can contribute toward sustainability broadly through intercampus collaboration, engagement with external networks and organizations, and public policy advocacy. " (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 104)

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Jan. 2017). STARS Technical Manual, version 2.1, Administrative Update Two. Retrieved from​

Air & Climate

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are measuring and reducing their greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. Global climate change is having myriad negative impacts throughout the world, including increased frequency and potency of extreme weather events, sea level rise, species extinction, water shortages, declining agricultural production, and spread of diseases. The impacts are particularly pronounced for lowincome communities and countries. In addition, institutions that inventory and take steps to reduce their air pollutant emissions can positively impact the health of the campus community, as well as the health of their local communities and regions." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 125)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are taking steps to improve the sustainability performance of their buildings. Buildings are generally the largest user of energy and the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on campuses. Buildings also use significant amounts of potable water. Institutions can design, build, and maintain buildings in ways that provide a safe and healthy indoor environment for inhabitants while simultaneously mitigating the building’s impact on the outdoor environment." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 145)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are reducing their energy consumption through conservation and efficiency, and switching to cleaner and renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, and low-impact hydropower. For most institutions, energy consumption is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global climate change. Global climate change is having myriad negative impacts throughout the world, including increased frequency and potency of extreme weather events, sea level rise, species extinction, water shortages, declining agricultural production, ocean acidification, and spread of diseases. The impacts are particularly pronounced for vulnerable and poor communities and countries. In addition to causing global climate change, energy generation from fossil fuels, especially coal, produces air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, dioxins, arsenic, cadmium and lead. These pollutants contribute to acid rain as well as health problems such as heart and respiratory diseases and cancer. Coal mining and oil and gas drilling can also damage environmentally and/or culturally significant ecosystems. Nuclear power creates highly toxic and long-lasting radioactive waste. Large-scale hydropower projects flood habitats and disrupt fish migration and can involve the relocation of entire communities." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 161)

Food & Dining

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are supporting a sustainable food system. Modern industrial food production often has deleterious environmental and social impacts. Pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture can contaminate ground and surface water and soil, which can in turn have potentially dangerous impacts on wildlife and human health. The production of animal-derived foods often subjects animals to inhumane treatment and animal products have a higher per-calorie environmental intensity than plant-based foods. Additionally, farm workers are often directly exposed to dangerous pesticides, subjected to harsh working conditions, and paid substandard wages. Furthermore, food is often transported long distance to institutions, producing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution, as well as undermining the resiliency of local communities. " (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 178)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that plan and maintain their grounds with sustainability in mind. Beautiful and welcoming campus grounds can be planned, planted, and maintained in any region while minimizing the use of toxic chemicals, protecting wildlife habitat, and conserving resources." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 194)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are using their purchasing power to help build a sustainable economy. Collectively, institutions spend many billions of dollars on goods and services annually. Each purchasing decision represents an opportunity for institutions to choose environmentally and socially preferable products and services and support companies with strong commitments to sustainability." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 202)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are moving toward sustainable transportation systems. Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants that contribute to health problems such as heart and respiratory diseases and cancer. Due to disproportionate exposure, these health impacts are frequently more pronounced in low-income communities next to major transportation corridors. In addition, the extraction, production, and global distribution of fuels for transportation can damage environmentally and/or culturally significant ecosystems and may financially benefit hostile and/or oppressive governments." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 218)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are moving toward zero waste by reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting. These actions mitigate the need to extract virgin materials from the earth, such as trees and metals. It generally takes less energy and water to make a product with recycled material than with virgin resources. Reducing the generation of waste also reduces the flow of waste to incinerators and landfills, which produce greenhouse gas emissions, can contaminate air and groundwater supplies, and tend to have disproportionate negative impacts on low-income communities. Source reduction and waste diversion also save institutions costly landfill and hauling service fees. In addition, waste reduction campaigns can engage the entire campus community in contributing to a tangible sustainability goal." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 231)


"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are conserving water, making efforts to protect water quality and treating water as a resource rather than a waste product. Pumping, delivering, and treating water is a major driver of energy consumption, so institutions can help reduce energy use and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy generation by conserving water. Likewise, conservation, water recycling and reuse, and effective rainwater management practices are important in maintaining and protecting finite groundwater supplies. Water conservation and effective rainwater management also reduce the need for effluent discharge into local surface water supplies, which helps improve the health of local water ecosystems." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 247)

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Jan. 2017). STARS Technical Manual, version 2.1, Administrative Update Two. Retrieved from​

Coordination & Planning

"This subcategory seeks to recognize colleges and universities that are institutionalizing sustainability by dedicating resources to sustainability coordination, developing plans to move toward sustainability, and engaging students, staff, faculty, and community stakeholders in governance. Staff and other resources help an institution organize, implement, and publicize sustainability initiatives. These resources provide the infrastructure that fosters sustainability within an institution. Sustainability planning affords an institution the opportunity to clarify its vision of a sustainable future, establish priorities and help guide budgeting and decision making. Strategic planning and stakeholder engagement in governance are important steps in making sustainability a campus priority and may help advocates implement changes to achieve sustainability goals." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p.258)

Diversity & Affordability

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are working to advance diversity and affordability on campus. In order to build a sustainable society, diverse groups will need to be able to come together and work collaboratively to address sustainability challenges. Members of racial and ethnic minority groups and immigrant, indigenous and low-income communities tend to suffer disproportionate exposure to environmental problems. This environmental injustice happens as a result of unequal and segregated or isolated communities. To achieve environmental and social justice, society must work to address discrimination and promote equality. The historical legacy and persistence of discrimination based on racial, gender, religious, and other differences makes a proactive approach to promoting a culture of inclusiveness an important component of creating an equitable society. Higher education opens doors to opportunities that can help create a more equitable world, and those doors must be open through affordable programs accessible to all regardless of race, gender, religion, socio-economic status and other differences. In addition, a diverse student body, faculty, and staff provide rich resources for learning and collaboration." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p.270)

Investment & Finance

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that make investment decisions that promote sustainability. Collectively, colleges and universities invest hundreds of billions of dollars. Like other decisions that institutions make, these investments have impacts that are both local and global in scope. Institutions with transparent and democratic investment processes promote accountability and engagement by the campus and community. By using the tools of sustainable investing, institutions can improve the long-term health of their endowments, encourage better corporate behavior, support innovation in sustainable products and services, support sustainability in their community, and help build a more just and sustainable financial system." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 289)

Wellbeing & Work

"This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that have incorporated sustainability into their human resources programs and policies. An institution’s people define its character and capacity to perform; and so, an institution’s achievements can only be as strong as its community. An institution can bolster the strength of its community by offering benefits, wages, and other assistance that serve to respectfully and ethically compensate workers and by acting to protect and positively affect the health, safety and wellbeing of the campus community." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 303)

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Jan. 2017). STARS Technical Manual, version 2.1, Administrative Update Two. Retrieved from​

Exemplary Practice

"Exemplary practice credits recognize specific initiatives that demonstrate sustainability leadership. Exemplary practices include:  Emerging best practices that are not otherwise recognized in STARS (e.g., seeking independent review of STARS data prior to submission).

  •  Initiatives and outcomes that are a step beyond what is recognized in a standard credit (e.g., achieving third party certification for a program or exceeding the highest criterion of an existing credit).
  • Exemplary initiatives and outcomes that are only relevant to a minority of institution types or regions (e.g., participation in green hospital networks)." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 319) 


"Innovation credits are open-ended and reserved for new, extraordinary, unique, groundbreaking, or uncommon outcomes, policies, and practices that address sustainability challenges and are not covered by an existing credit or exemplary practice option.

1) In general, innovation credits should have roughly similar impacts or be on the same scale as other STARS credits.

2) Outcomes, policies, and practices that are innovative for the institution’s region or institution type are eligible for innovation credits.

3) The innovative practice, policy, program, or outcome must be ongoing or have occurred within the three years prior to the anticipated date of submission.

4) The innovative practice or program has to be something that the institution has already implemented; planned activities do not count.

5) The innovative practice or program should originate from an area within the defined institutional boundary.

6) Practices, policies, and programs that were once considered innovative but are now widely adopted (e.g., being the first institution to enact a policy 20 years ago that is now common) may not be claimed as innovation credits.

7) Multiple activities or practices whose sum is innovative can be considered for an innovation credit as long as those activities or practices are related. Listing a series of unrelated accomplishments or events under a single innovation credit is not accepted.

8) While the practices that led to receiving an award may be appropriate for an innovation credit, winning awards and/or high sustainability rankings in other assessments is not, in and of itself, grounds for an innovation credit. When the innovation is part of a partnership, the summary provided must clearly describe the institution’s role in the innovation." (Stars Technical Manual, v2.1, p. 320)

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Jan. 2017). STARS Technical Manual, version 2.1, Administrative Update Two. Retrieved from​

Articles: Promoting & Reporting as Learning Process

**some articles available via Interlibrary Loan. Sign into CLICsearch, then follow the link to "Request through interlibrary loan (ILLiad)."

Greening the Ivory Tower: A Review of Educational Research on Sustainability in Post-Secondary Education. (2013). Vaughter P, Wright T, McKenzie M, Lidstone L. Sustainability, 5(5), 2252-2271; doi:10.3390/su5052252

Happiness as a harmonising path for bringing higher education towards sustainability. (2013). Escobar-Tello, M. C., & Bhamra, T. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 15(1), 177-197. doi:10.1007/s10668-012-9382-4

Measuring sustainability at universities by means of the sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system (STARS): Early findings from STARS data. (2015). Urbanski, M., & Filho, W. L. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 17(2), 209-220. doi:10.1007/s10668-014-9564-3

A model for creating a campus sustainability plan. (2015). Cox, H. Planning for Higher Education, 44(1), 89.

Sustainable procurement: Integrating classroom learning with university sustainability programs. (2013). Goldschmidt, K., Harrison, T., Holtry, M., & Reeh, J. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 11(3), 279-294. doi:10.1111/dsji.12007

Sustainability Promotion and Branding: Messaging Challenges and Possibilities for Higher Education Institutions. (2009). Selby, D., Jones, P., & Kagawa, F. Sustainability1(3), 537–555. doi:10.3390/su1030537

Sustainability Reporting in Higher Education: Interconnecting the Reporting Process and Organisational Change Management for Sustainability. (2015). Ceulemans, K., Lozano, R., & Alonso-Almeida, M. Sustainability, 7(7), 8881–8903. doi:10.3390/su7078881