Logo for the AASHE STARS Sustainability Reporting ProgramSTARS Reporting

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System
(STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Cornell University reports on 1,000s of sustainability metrics across campus operations, education, social justice, and more.
 


2020 STARS Rating: Platinum

AASHE STARS Platinum SealTotal Points: 85.05pts

In 2020, Cornell University became the 6th University in the world to achieve a Platinum Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the highest possible rating.  

Prior to 2020, Cornell also held the longest-running Gold Rating, for the previous 8 consecutive years.  The score has increased 24% since reporting began.  STARS is a mechanism for benchmarking sustainability progress, identifying key topics to continue improving and areas of success to share with other institutions and local, state, and national partners.

Key Highlights

Perfect Scores
Cornell scored perfectly in 45 (out of 68) reporting areas this year.  The campus was recognized with a perfect score for work in Community Partnerships, Inter-Campus Collaboration, Campus Biodiversity, Research & Scholarship, Support for Sustainable Transportation, and providing Immersive Experience programs in sustainability, such as living laboratory projects.  

Open Access to Research
Thanks to the Cornell Library’s Open Access Fund, Cornell received recognition for advancing access to open scholarly publication sources.  This supports the idea that sustainability research must be open-access in order to accelerate necessary and urgent solution across institutions and communities.

Learning Outcomes for Sustainability
100% of Cornell students graduate from Colleges that have sustainability as part of their core learning outcomes.  The Provosts of Cornell's colleges have worked to strengthen learning outcomes which support literacy of the interconnectedness of people, prosperity, and the planet.

Sustainability Courses and Majors, Minors  
40+ living laboratory projects take place each year across Cornell's 10 focus areas, and over  1500+ students have taken Leadership for Sustainability and the Green Revolving Fund sustainability courses focused on peer education and campus operations. 16% of all courses offered have a sustainability focus or content.  See a current list of Cornell Sustainability Courses

 With the addition to the newly launched ESS major, students at Cornell can major in 15 programs that focus on sustainability, including The Global & Public Health Sciences major, International Agriculture & Rural Development, Design + Environmental Analysis, Agricultural Sciences, Biological Engineering, Developmental SociologyEarth and Atmospheric Sciences, Entomology, Environmental Engineering, Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Food Science, Landscape Architecture, Nutritional SciencesPlant Sciences, and Urban and Regional Studies.  There are also 20+ minors focused on sustainability.

Commuting
83% of Cornell students, both graduate and undergraduate, use sustainable or alternative transportation options as their primary means of mobility across campus, to work and class. 

Food Purchasing & Compost
90% of dairy purchases and 27% of fresh produce are grown and/or processed within 250 miles of Cornell University or third-party certified.  Over 1,000 tons of food waste are composted annually by CUEAS Farm Services, along with 6,377 tons of animal manure and bedding and 217 tons of plant material and soil.



2020 STARS Infographic
 

Infographic showing details from key highlights above

Previous Reports


2019 STARS Highlights

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating: 73.84pts

The Gold Rating was achieved for the 8th consecutive year.  The score has increased 7% in the last two years; the University has received a Gold rating every year of participation.

Areas of Progress

#1 for Ivy Institutions and New York State
Cornell had the highest ranking of any Ivy league institution, and highest overall ranking of any institution in New York State.  However, of the "Ivy+" institutions, Cornell ranks second after Stanford University, which has achieved a Platinum rating.

1st in Coordination & Planning  
Cornell had the highest ranking of any Ivy league institution, and highest overall ranking of any institution in New York State.

13th in Diversity & Affordability 
Cornell was listed as 13th in the country for Diversity and Affordability, and 2nd for campuses in New York State. 

Sustainability Course Offerings Cornell offers 886 courses with sustainability content, and launched an Environment & Sustainability major open to all disciplines. Cornell also earns full credit for the category of "Campus as a Living Laboratory", utilizing campus for applied learning and research in relation to Air and Climate.  Over 480 faculty and staff are engaged in sustainability research as well. Cornell Sustainability Courses 

Commuting
Over 90% of Cornell students, both graduate and undergraduate, use sustainable or alternative transportation options as their primary means of mobility across campus, to work and class.

Areas for Improvement

Investing Only 1.68% of the investment pool is in positive sustainability investments (Cornell ranks 143rd in the Investment & Finance category).  Historically, the score in Investment is one of the lowest for Cornell's STARS report. However, this is true across higher education - sustainable investment continues to be an area of collective improvement. Cornell scores 1.6% and the average national score is 16.72% in this category.

Wellbeing Cornell currently scores only 47% in this area, up from our 2018 score of 39%.  Human Resources has recently launched a new Wellbeing Framework and many partners on campus are working on overall health and wellbeing programs.

Food and Beverage Purchasing We only score 7% in this sub-category, losing credit for spending 71% of total dining services food and beverage expenditures on conventional animal products. However, 90% of dairy purchases are local (a significant portion from Cornell Dairy itself) and 27% of fresh produce is from within 250 miles of Cornell. 

Office Paper Purchasing  42% score overall. Only 12.3% of office paper expenditures go towards 90-100% post-consumer recycled paper, or FSC Recycled label paper. 

Waste This is one of the few areas where Cornell's performance has decreased over time.  Due to recycling changes in the county and country, and lack of engagement across campus, the current score is 63%, with over 660 lbs of waste generated per campus community member each year.

2018 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating: 74.38pts

Cornell achieved a STARS Gold ranking for the 7th year in a row in 2018, making it the longest running institution to do so.  Our institutional score increased 7%, with an overall score of 72.4, increasing from the 2017 score of 68.5. 

Areas of Progress

  • #1 for Ivy Institutions and New York State
    Cornell had the highest ranking of any Ivy league institution, and highest overall ranking of any institution in New York State.  However, of the "Ivy+" institutions, Cornell ranks second after Stanford University, which has achieved a Platinum rating.

  • 1st in Coordination & Planning  
    Cornell had the highest ranking of any Ivy league institution, and highest overall ranking of any institution in New York State.

  • 8th in Diversity & Affordability 
    Cornell was listed as 8th in the country for Diversity and Affordability, and 2nd for campuses in New York State. 

  • Sustainability Course Offerings Cornell offers 732 courses with sustainability content, and launched an Environment & Sustainability major open to all disciplines, and 56% of students now graduate from programs at Cornell that have at least one sustainability learning outcome as a requirement. Over 480 faculty and staff are engaged in sustainability research as well.

  • Commuting
    Over 90% of Cornell students, both graduate and undergraduate, use sustainable or alternative transportation options as their primary means of mobility across campus, to work and class

Areas for Improvement

  • Investing Only 1.80% of the investment pool is in positive sustainability investments (Cornell ranks 108th in the Investment & Finance category).  Historically, the score in Investment is one of the lowest for Cornell's STARS report. However, this is true across higher education - sustainable investment continues to be an area of collective improvement. Cornell scores 1.7% and the average national score is 16.72% in this category.

  • Wellbeing  Cornell currently scores only 39% in this area.  However, Human Resources has recently launched a new Wellbeing Framework and many partners on campus are working on overall health and wellbeing programs.

  • Office Paper Purchasing  35% score overall.  Only 16.5% of office paper expenditures go towards 90-100% post-consumer recycled paper, or FSC Recycled label paper. 

  • Waste This is one of the few areas where Cornell's performance has decreased over time.  Due to recycling changes in the county and country, and lack of engagement across campus, the current score is 47.6%, with over 820 lbs of waste generated per campus community member each year.

2017 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating: 68.49pts

2016 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating

2015 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating

2014 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating

2013 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating

2012 STARS Report

AASHE STARS Gold SealGold Rating


About STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS®) system administered by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS provides a framework for understanding sustainability progress within and across institutions by standardized performance metrics.   STARS helps institutions celebrate areas of accomplish and identify topics for improvement.  The platform facilitates a framework which includes social justice, human wellbeing, and economic security alongside planetary and ecological issues.