Hope College has again earned a STARS Silver rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.  Hope has held a silver rating since 2017, after previously holding a Bronze rating beginning in 2012.

“Our Green Team is pleased that we were able to make additional progress for this year's sustainability STARS report and increase our score once again,” said Michelle Gibbs, director of the Office of Sustainability at Hope.  “These reports are made possible because of the support from departments all over campus taking the time to meet with us and share data. This tool is really helpful to us in terms of setting goals as a committee. We can see areas where we have made progress over the years as well as where we need to make improvements in the future.”

With more than 900 participants in 40 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: 1) academics 2) engagement, 3) operations, 4) planning and administration, and 5) innovation and leadership.

The ratings are at four different levels:  Bronze at 25 percent, Silver at 45 percent, Gold at 65 percent and Platinum at 85 percent.  Hope’s overall score is 57.65 percent, an increase from the college’s 2017 score of 48.64.  The college’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website at stars.aashe.org.

Sustainability is an ongoing process at Hope that includes not only individual and departmental efforts, but the coordinating work of a Sustainability Advisory Committee, known as the “Green Team,” consisting of faculty, administrators and students.

“Hope College supports environmental stewardship as an institution grounded in the historic Christian faith,” Gibbs said.  “Our faith calls us to care for all of God’s creation and ensure its preservation for generations to come. We seek to honor our calling to be stewards of creation care on campus and beyond by engaging constructively in teaching, research and community service to sustain a world gifted to us by God.”

Activities and practices at the college focused on sustainability have ranged from green purchasing policies; to trayless dining to reduce food waste; to replacing residence halls’ windows with better-insulated models and adding insulation to the cottages’ attics.  The van Andel Huys der Hope Campus Ministries house that opened in the fall of 2019 has LEED v4 certification, the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center that opened in 2017 has LEED Gold certification, and the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts that opened in 2015 has LEED Silver certification.

Among its other efforts focused on the campus, Hope makes a tradition of planting trees during each Earth Week and Arbor Day.  Across 2019, Hope planted a total of 97 trees, including through support from a $2,000 grant from the Eaton Conservation District – Michigan Arbor Day Alliance, to replace trees removed for construction or due to age or because they were unhealthy.  Faculty and student researchers at the college have also been working in partnership with the City of Holland on an Urban Tree Canopy Research Project to inventory trees on city property and campus.

Hope offers academic minors in environmental science and environmental studies, and across several departments has more than 50 individual courses focused on sustainability and another 40 that include sustainability in some way.  Multiple faculty-student collaborative research teams pursue environmentally-related projects, with a particular emphasis on water quality in the area.

Hope has received a variety of awards through the years for its sustainability efforts.  For the past two consecutive years, the college has received Tree Campus USA® recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation.  In October 2019, Hope received an Honor Award for exceptional grounds maintenance in the 2019 Green Star Awards competition of the Professional Grounds Management Society. In 2015, Hope College Dining received Gold-level recognition in the SEED sustainability program of Creative Dining Services.  In 2014, the college was certified by the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program for meeting the organization’s standards in overall grounds management practices.

More information about sustainability efforts at Hope and in the area is available at hope.edu/sustainability.

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. More information about AASHE is available at aashe.org