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STARS Gold Rating for Sustainability Achievements

University participates in national recognition program for the second time the university, improving from 2017 Silver Rating

Cal Poly has earned a STARS Gold Rating — the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s second highest honor — in recognition of the university’s sustainability achievements.

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education — including academics, engagement, operations, planning, administration, innovation, and leadership efforts.

“The STARS Gold Rating recognition reinforces Cal Poly’s commitment to sustainability while fostering additional Learn by Doing opportunities for students in all six of our colleges,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “This rating also helps propel us toward a major long-term campus goal of trimming our carbon footprint and transforming Cal Poly into a net zero campus by 2050.”

This is the second time Cal Poly has applied for a STARS rating from AASHE, a network of nearly 1,000 participating colleges and universities working to create a sustainable future. In 2017, the university submitted a report outlining sustainability efforts that received a Silver Rating, scoring highest in the areas of curriculum, campus engagement, planning, and water and greenhouse gas emissions management. The ranking system includes four tiers from bronze level to the top-rating, platinum.

Campus leaders recognized the need to expand on the 2017 rating.

Recent work toward sustainability on campus has included the 18.5-acre Gold Tree Solar Farm, which was dedicated in January 2018. Visible from Highway 1, the facility’s more than 16,000 individual solar panels have a capacity of 4.5 megawatts (AC) and can generate more than 11 million kWh per year — enough to power more than 1,000 homes, or about 25 percent of Cal Poly’s total power needs.

As well, the campus was able to have the operations and maintenance procedures of three existing structures — the 51,000-square-foot Cotchett Education Building (1941), the 16,000-square-foot Advanced Technology Laboratories (1999) and the 49,000-square-foot Construction Innovations Center (2008) — obtain LEED Silver O+M Certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings in new and existing structures.

In addition, Cal Poly’s curriculum infusion efforts and student engagement programs and the university’s work in diversity and inclusion contributed to this year’s improved STARS rating, said Kylee Singh, Cal Poly’s sustainability coordinator.

“Sustainability plays a role in the work each and every one of us do here at Cal Poly every day,” she said. “It’s not just in the way you recycle your cup or making sure all the lights are out in your office. When it comes down to it, sustainability is about people, and how are we supporting students, staff and faculty to ensure the health and success of all.”

Work is already underway with an eye toward the 2022 report. Several projects in development include two soon-to-begin solar photovoltaic projects, a new Solar Engineering and Microgrid Laboratory, LEED Gold Certification of four new construction or major renovation projects now underway, an on-campus Recycled Water Facility, and a megawatt scale battery storage project.

“Cal Poly looks forward to resubmitting to AASHE STARS, striving for a Platinum rating, when these and other new programs and process improvements are in place,” Armstrong said.

With nearly 1,000 participants in 30 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics; engagement; operations; planning and administration; and innovation and leadership.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Cal Poly has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

Cal Poly’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website:

About Cal Poly Energy, Utilities and Sustainability
Cal Poly Energy, Utilities, and Sustainability, a unit of Facilities Management and Development, is dedicated to the responsible management of the natural resources that impact campus operations. Electricity, natural gas, water and various other resources are critical to operating a successful university, and the sustainable use of these resources is a driving force in Cal Poly campus planning and operations. A renowned leader in sustainability efforts, Cal Poly has received 32 Best Practice Awards from the UC/CSU/CCC Energy Efficiency Partnership Program. The campus has also earned significant CSU funding and utility incentives for energy conservation and continues to be named a Tree Campus USA and Best Workplace for Commuters. For more information, visit

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS is intended to engage and recognize the full spectrum of higher education institutions, from community colleges to research universities. The framework encompasses long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions, as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are taking first steps toward sustainability