Looking back over the past year, I’m excited to see all of the progress we have made. We provided new and improved resources to serve our members. We’ve made significant advancements in demonstrating our values and have expanded our reach to new audiences.
Some of our key accomplishments over the last year include:
- The launch of AASHE Connect, a powerful resource where members can network with 30,000+ higher education sustainability advocates, exchange knowledge and share solutions in real time.
- Introduction of the Lifetime Achievement Award to honor outstanding leaders who have made significant contributions to the advancement of sustainability in higher education over their lifetimes.
- The release of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement, which reaffirms our resolve to advancing DEI as a core value.
- A new partnership with ACTS that brings STARS to higher education institutions in Australasia, and further demonstrates that STARS is the global standard for measuring sustainability in higher education.
I encourage you to explore this report to learn about the exciting programs and services we implemented over the last year as a direct result of member feedback. Looking ahead, we will continue to deliver new tools and information to empower you, leaders at colleges & universities around the world, to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. We remain dedicated to improving member value, being responsive to member feedback and delivering stellar customer service. We’re here for you so let us know what’s working, what you need and any ideas you have for increasing positive change.
Together with all of you, we are excited to continue our work of inspiring and catalyzing higher education to lead the global sustainability transformation.
Meghan Fay Zahniser, Executive Director
For over a year, we have worked diligently and collaboratively to develop a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) statement for the organization. Though the statement is new, we have been working to advance DEI for several years throughout our programming and operations. Now, more than ever before, there’s a sense of urgency to not only publicly proclaim our commitment, but to reaffirm our resolve to advancing DEI as a core value.
We are the first organization working in the higher education sector to achieve JUST recognition. Earning recognition as a JUST Organization by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), allowed us the opportunity to increase transparency efforts around our operations and a range of organization- and employee-related indicators. Our participation helps demonstrate our deep commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability, and our desire for continuous improvement on these issues in our own operations.
Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
STARS was introduced in 2009 as a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. It incentivizes institutions to deepen their efforts and provides an open platform for information sharing.
- University College Cork was the first institution in Ireland to earn a STARS rating and the first institution outside the U.S. and Canada to earn STARS Gold.
- Thompson Rivers University was the first institution in Canada and the first Master's institution to achieve a STARS Platinum rating.
- American University of Sharjah was the first institution in the Middle East to achieve a STARS rating.
- For the first time, Sierra magazine and The Princeton Review both used published STARS reports as the primary data source for their green rankings. This change, facilitated by AASHE, helped to simplify and reduce confusion associated with the data sharing process.
- We partnered with Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), to offer STARS to ACTS members, further demonstrating that STARS is the global standard for measuring sustainability in higher education. Learn more.
- As part of our efforts to continuously improve STARS data quality and the reporting process, AASHE released a STARS Review Template and a pilot program for institutions to use the template. This template highlighted common issues that AASHE staff have identified during standard post-submission reviews in order to help institutions increase data quality.
2018 AASHE Conference & Expo
Nearly 400 students came together to participate in this Student Summit, an all-day event for student sustainability leaders to network, learn about career pathways in sustainability, discover strategies to make change on their campuses and in their communities. Students also had the chance to connect with professional organizations and activist networks that can amplify their efforts and provide ongoing support.
Mr. Garrett Blad, Executive Coordinator at SustainUS, joined students as the keynote speaker where his talk centered around climate change and the importance of rising to the challenge together to make a difference.
"I appreciated having all of the workshops and case studies specifically centered around student life and work in sustainability on campus. It was great to hear and see what other students are doing on their campuses." - Julia Abell, Student at The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University
Opening Keynote Address
During the opening ceremony, Ms. Akpezi Ogbuigwe, the former Head of Environmental Education and Training at the United Nations Environment Program, brought three decades of experience and research in transformational change in higher education in Africa, environmental law and policy, and sustainable development to nearly 2,000 attendees. She demonstrated how the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present an opportunity for higher education to reinvent itself and to rethink teaching, research and community engagement.
Closing Keynote Address
Dr. Paul Shrivastava, the Chief Sustainability Officer and Professor at Penn State, pulled from his experience as the founding director of Future Earth and as a scholar focused on organizations and the environment to highlight how Penn State is rising to meet the challenge of the SDGs during the closing ceremony.
New Conference Happenings
- An advanced track was introduced to provide senior sustainability practitioners with lessons, ideas and tools to bring back to their institutions, organizations and community.
- A film festival highlighted the wide range of approaches members are taking to advance sustainability.
- For the first time, attendees were able to earn continuing education units (CEUs) toward maintaining their International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) credential. Attendees could also retroactively apply for CEUs if they attended AASHE 2017.
We are committed to modeling sustainability at our conference. We implement a variety of practices to neutralize or minimize the conference’s environmental footprint and maximize our positive impact. Highlights from this year’s conference include:
- A nearly zero-waste conference! The waste diversion rate for this year’s conference was 89.14% making it the highest rate to date for the conference and nearly zero-waste event.
- A carbon offset sponsorship from NativeEnergy where enough carbon was retired to mitigate all of the estimated emissions associated with travel to and from the conference as well as on-site energy use.
- Partnership with Cupanion to provide attendees with a reusable water bottle in order to prevent waste from disposal of single-use cups.
The AASHE Sustainability Awards recognize sustainability achievements, research advancements and student leadership. By raising the visibility of high-impact sustainability projects and pioneering research, the awards program helps to disseminate innovations and inspire continued progress toward sustainability.
Our panel of nearly 75 judges had the difficult task of reviewing more than 300 submissions across four categories to select 34 finalists and ultimately 11 winners.
Lifetime Achievement Award
We were proud to introduce a new category in 2018 - the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award category recognizes outstanding leaders who have made significant contributions to the advancement of sustainability in higher education over their lifetime. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed upon an individual by AASHE.
Watch the full interview:
Education & Professional Development
Our education and professional development programs enable higher education sustainability champions - including sustainability staff, faculty, students and administrators - to connect with one another while gaining the knowledge and skills to more effectively advance sustainability at their institutions.
Webinars & Workshops
In 2018, we held 36 webinars on topics ranging from nitrogen footprinting to decolonizing the curriculum.
We also held four in-person workshops providing in-depth training and focused networking on key topics of interest to the AASHE community.
Centers for Sustainability Across the Curriculum
The Centers for Sustainability Across the Curriculum provides workshops on sustainability in the curriculum in an effort to increase the accessibility and diversity of sustainability-oriented training for faculty.
Building on this program’s pilot success, we added a new center at the University of Hawaii, bringing the total number of centers to 14.
In the Mentorship Program’s first year, 82 mentor and mentees connected to share knowledge, cooperate on projects and advance the field of higher education sustainability. Another cohort of 91 participants has been matched for 2018-2019 year.
“I gained connection to others in this region doing the same work. Through regular contact with my mentor I feel I have a go to resource if I have a question about a topic or want to pick someone's brain about best practices - institutional and personally as a director. It has also helped me be easier on myself and more realistic with work expectations.” - Jessica Bilecki, University of the Pacific
As the campus sustainability movement continues to grow, a wide variety of networks of campus sustainability advocates have emerged. These networks, which are often formed along state, provincial and/or regional lines, share many goals with AASHE. AASHE formalized a collaborative relationship with 18 of these networks through our Affiliates Program.
AASHE empowers higher education faculty, administrators, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. We work with and for higher education to ensure that our world’s future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges. AASHE membership extends to every person at your institution, organization or business. Our membership base is comprised of 873 higher education institutions, businesses and nonprofit organizations.
In the 2018 Member Survey, members indicated improvements in member value, customer service, and decision making and governance. We are excited to continue our work to provide valuable resources to support our members in advancing sustainability.
"AASHE has provided the foundation and structure to meet and grow our sustainable campus. We have a great appreciation for their services and resources. AASHE has offered premier venues for networking and collaborative opportunity. The annual conference, which we’ve attended and/or presented since 2008, is held in high regard by our college community." - Linda Petee, Delta College
New Member Benefit: AASHE Connect
As a new member benefit, we launched AASHE Connect, an online platform for members to connect, communicate and collaborate with peers around the world and have instant access to the many experts that make up AASHE’s membership. All members, including faculty, administrators, staff, students, and business and nonprofit representatives, are able to participate in the AASHE Connect online community. With more than 1,400 active users in less than a year, this community has quickly become a staple to our members, providing them an opportunity to connect with other members throughout the globe anytime they want!
Over the past several years, we evaluated our business membership structure in order to improve the value proposition and return on investment of being an AASHE member. We now offer two distinct levels of membership that allow businesses to choose the best option to fit their needs: Business Affiliate and Business Leader.
Communications & Outreach
An important role in advancing campus sustainability is regular communication to members and the community. We communicate through the website, e-newsletters, emails, social media posts and media. We also build supportive partnerships and participate in outreach efforts to broaden our scope and awareness to the larger sustainability community.
AASHE has long engaged in advocacy and outreach on behalf of our members and higher education sustainability. In 2018, we aimed to increase our advocacy efforts. As a result, we supported many issues from topics ranging on environmental degradation to educational grant programs Efforts this year included:
- Joining the Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP) and signing the GEEP Pledge to support universal environmental literacy.
- Joining the the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), which exists to help bring about a transformation of the economic system, of society and of institutions so that all actors prioritize shared wellbeing on a healthy planet.
- Working with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) to build support for the Climate Change Education Act.
- Endorsing of the March for Science for the second year in a row.
AASHE staff went to approximately 15 events around the world such as the Steps towards a Sustainable University Barometer workshop (pictured), the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) Conference, ACTS Power of Partnerships event and the Sustainability Curriculum Consortium Conference. AASHE's presence at these events helps create and strengthen partnerships in order to better serve our members.
Thank you to each staff person for all their hard work and commitment to advance sustainability throughout the year!
- Jessica Chase, CAE, Director of Membership and Marketing
- Julian Dautremont, Director of Programs
- Tessie Devlin, Education Intern
- Tylor Dodge, Web Application Developer
- Bob Erb, IT Manager
- Meghan Fay Zahniser, Executive Director
- Andrea Huggins, Programs Marketing Manager
- Nikia Johnson, Membership Engagement Manager
- Allison Jones, Director of Finance & Administration
- Heather Lynch, Membership Operations Coordinator
- Chris Pelton, STARS Program Manager
- Claire Pope, Resources Intern
- Jordan Schanda, STARS Program Coordinator
- Daita Serghi, Education Programs Manager
- Crystal Simmons, Programs Coordinator
- Kimberly Smith, Director of Conference & Events
- Noah Swistak, Membership Development Manager
- Monika Urbanski, Data & Content Manager
- Margueritte Williams, Accounting & Payroll Manager