STARS Platinum

STARS Reporting

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a comprehensive and transparent reporting framework for universities to track their sustainability performance. Cornell annually reports on 100s of metrics related to campus operations, education, and more and currently holds the highest possible rating: Platinum. 


AASHE STARS Platinum Seal
2022 STARS Rating

2022 STARS Rating: Platinum 

In 2022 Cornell achieved a third consecutive Platinum Rating, the highest available.  The overall score is 86.35 out of 100, an improvement of 1.25 points over the previous year. 

Cornell University is the only campus in the world to have received a Platinum Rating for three consecutive years.  Of the four major areas of reporting, this year Cornell received a score of 95.76% in Academics, 96.85% in Engagement, 64% for Operations, and 80.29% for Planning and Administration, as well as a full score for innovation credits. 

As of Spring 2022, only nine institutions in the world hold a Platinum Rating.  Previous to receiving the first Platinum Rating in 2019, Cornell had held the longest-running Gold Rating for 8 consecutive years. The overall score has increased 23% since reporting began in 2012.   

Areas of Achievement

Overall Scores & Full Points Achieved
Of the four major areas of reporting, this year Cornell received a score of 96% in Academics, 97% in Engagement, 64% for Operations, and 80% for Planning and Administration, as well as a full score for innovation credits.  Full points were achieved in 38 out of 65 reporting areas.

Learning Outcomes for Sustainability
20% of Cornell students graduate from programs that require an understanding of sustainability. Cornell also requires all incoming students to complete Mission Sustainability, a sustainability assessment and learning module. The module measures sustainability beliefs and literacy and encourages students to get involved in sustainability and climate justice during their Cornell careers. 

Sustainability Curriculum
15% of all courses offered are sustainability-focused or sustainability-inclusive. Many of these courses are Community-Engaged Learning Courses, which are sustainability-focused, immersive educational experiences locally and all over the world.  40+ living laboratory projects take place each year utilizing the campus as an innovation hub for sustainability solutions.
 
Students can major, minor, or concentrate in 41 undergraduate programs and 78 graduate programs focused on sustainability, including Global & Public Health Sciences, International Agriculture & Rural Development, Design + Environmental Analysis, Agricultural Sciences, Biological Engineering, Developmental Sociology, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Entomology, Environmental Engineering, Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Food Science, Landscape Architecture, Nutritional Sciences, Plant Sciences, and Urban and Regional Studies.

Research
37% of employees and 97% of departments are currently engaged in sustainability-focused research, including 619 Faculty Fellows through the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. The Fellows are working to identify and advance innovative sustainability research and initiatives at Cornell.  

Commuting
83% of students use sustainable transportation such as walking, biking, or carpooling as their primary means of commuting to and across campus.

Composting
All of Cornell Dining’s pre-consumer food waste is collected and composted. Over 1,000 tons of food waste are composted annually by Farm Services, and composting is available in all residential communities as part of the Residential Compost Program.

  • 2022 Areas for Improvement
  • Paper Purchasing
    Only 2.8% of office paper expenditures go towards any type of paper with 50% or more post-consumer recycled content, or FSC Recycled label paper.

  • Electronics Purchasing
    Although 80% of electronics purchased at Cornell are EPEAT certified, ideally, 100% of electronics including computers, displays, tablets, televisions, copiers, mailing machines, printers and scanners should be certified.
     

  • Waste
    One of the few areas where performance has decreased over time.  Due to recycling changes in the county and country, and lack of engagement across campus, over 507 lbs of waste is generated per campus community member each year.

  • 36% of Cornell’s total waste is disposed of in a solid waste landfill or incinerator. We hope to increase the percentage of waste diverted from the landfill or incinerator by recycling, composting, donating or re-selling. 


  • Cleaning Supplies
    Only 7% of expenditures on cleaning and janitorial products that are third party certified to meet recognized sustainability standards. However, a working group of the Sustainable Cornell Council is currently working to improve this area. 

  • Food & Dining 
    Currently, the STARS report shows only 1% of total annual food and beverage expenditures spent on products that are sustainably or ethically produced - however, refinement of how the University tags and categorizes food purchases would likely illuminate a larger number.

    Positively, 50% of total annual food and beverage expenditures are plant-based. Dining is actively working to increase the proportion of sustainably sourced, plant-based food and beverages and participates in Menus of Change.


  • Sustainable Investments
    Recently, Cornell instituted a moratorium on new private investments focused on fossil fuels. Today only 2.45% of the institution's investment pool is currently allocated to positive sustainability investments. It is worth noting that the average score in this reporting area is low for most institutions - averaging .6 out of 5 possible points as of Spring 2022 - indicating an opportunity for best-practice sharing in this area across the higher education community.

Note on STARS Benchmarking
STARS is a benchmarking tool, and therefore represents a baseline by which campuses can compare and work towards progress in a comprehensive sustainability framework. Comparing scores and progress to other similar institutions (for instance, campuses with over 14million sq. ft, research institutions, or campuses with a similar population and climate) is useful, but not a complete picture of how progress should be measured or achieved.

Each campus, including Cornell, has a unique culture and operational framework that require our community to innovate and create a culture of sustainability in ways that may not be captured by STARS.  Even if our campus was able to achieve a perfect STARS Score, it would be the beginning of a leadership journey in sustainability, not the end. 


About STARS Reporting

Cornell annually collects and publishes 1,000s of metrics in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) with the help of 40+ campus subject matter experts.  STARS is administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS includes 68 reporting areas, including academics & research, education & engagement, campus operations, and coordination & planning, as well as innovation credits.  Reports date back to 2012 and can be compared with other participating Universities across the U.S. and the world.

Note: STARS reports are published in the Spring and use data from the previous fiscal year or most recent data available within at least three years.

Recent News on STARS 


STARS Infographic

Infographic summarizing key report highlights shared above


Previous Reports

AASHE STARS Platinum Seal
Cornell University Current STARS Rating

2021 STARS Report

In 2021 Cornell achieved a second Platinum Rating with an overall score of 85.1 out of 100. Platinum is the highest possible rating. To date, only eleven institutions worldwide and nine nationally have achieved this rating. Previously Cornell held the longest-running Gold Rating for 8 consecutive years.  The overall score has increased 24% since reporting began in 2012. 

Areas of Achievement

Perfect Scores
Cornell scored perfectly in 40 (out of 64) reporting areas this year. The campus was recognized with a perfect score for work in Campus Engagement, Community Partnerships, Campus Biodiversity, Research & Scholarship, Sustainable Dining, Support for Sustainable Transportation, and providing Immersive Experience programs in sustainability, such as living laboratory projects. 

Open Access to Research
The Cornell Library’s Open Access Fund advances access to scholarly publications, supporting the idea that sustainability research must be open-access in order to accelerate necessary and urgent solutions across institutions and communities.

Learning Outcomes for Sustainability
17% of students graduate from programs that require an understanding of the concept of sustainability. The Provosts of Cornell's colleges have worked to strengthen learning outcomes that support literacy of the interconnectedness of people, prosperity, and the planet. The ultimate goal is to institutionalize sustainable learning outcomes within each college.  Cornell also requires all incoming students to complement a sustainability assessment and learning module as part of their "To Do List," which engages students in learning and helps staff measure literacy in key topics over time.

Sustainability Courses and Majors, Minors  
16% of all courses offered have a sustainability focus or content. 40+ living laboratory projects take place each year utilizing the campus as an innovation hub for sustainability solutions. n addition to the newly launched E&S major, students at Cornell can major in over 15 programs that focus on sustainability, including Global & Public Health Sciences, International Agriculture & Rural Development, Design + Environmental Analysis, Agricultural Sciences, Biological Engineering, Developmental Sociology, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Entomology, Environmental Engineering, Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Food Science, Landscape Architecture, Nutritional Sciences, Plant 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. Specifically, about 50% of the student body walks, cycles, or uses another non-motorized mode as their primary means of transportation, and about 32% of employees use more sustainable commuting options as their primary mode of transportation.  

Improved in all three categories: Campus Fleet, Commute Modal Split, Support for Sustainable Transportation due to new initiatives such as partnerships with Ithaca Carshare, incentives for fuel-efficient vehicles, and the OmniRide Program to provide free, unlimited bus transportation. 

Food Purchasing & Compost
90% of dairy purchases and 27% of fresh produce are grown and/or processed within 250 miles of campus. 34% of total annual food and beverage expenditures are on plant-based foods. Over 1,000 tons of food waste are composted annually by Farm Services,  along with 6,377 tons of animal manure and bedding and 217 tons of plant material and soil, and composting is available in all residential communities as part of the Residential Compost Program.

  • Areas for Improvement
  • Wellbeing / Wellness
    Cornell loses points for allowing smoking on campus, and for having a higher # of workplace accidents than in previous years.

  • Governance
    Full points are only available to institutions with a balance in gender representation on key governing committees.  Due to a change in the Cornell Board of Trustees composition this year, full points were not achieved.

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

  • Electronics Purchasing
    Although 80% of electronics purchased at Cornell are EPEAT certified, ideally, 100% of electronics including computers, displays, tablets, televisions, copiers, mailing machines, printers and scanners should be certified.

  • Waste
    One of the few areas where performance has decreased over time.  Due to recycling changes in the county and country, and lack of engagement across campus, the current score is 57%, with over 660 lbs of waste generated per campus community member each year.  

  • Note on STARS Benchmarking
    STARS is a benchmarking tool, and therefore represents a baseline by which campuses can compare and work towards progress in a comprehensive sustainability framework. Comparing scores and progress to other similar institutions (for instance, campuses with over 14million sq. ft, research institutions, or campuses with a similar population and climate) is useful, but not a complete picture of how progress should be measured or achieved.

  • Each campus, including Cornell, has a unique culture and operational framework that require our community to innovate and create a culture of sustainability in ways that may not be captured by STARS.  Even if our campus was able to achieve a perfect STARS Score, it would be the beginning of a leadership journey in sustainability, not the end.


2021 Sustainability Reporting Infographic

Infographic summarizing key report highlights shared above

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

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 previous 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 accomplishment and identify topics for improvement.  The platform facilitates a framework that includes social justice, human wellbeing, and economic security alongside planetary and ecological issues.