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Maximize Campus Sustainability Impact and Progress by using the right tools

Updated: Apr 21

There are standards, methods, and analysis available to educational institutions to measure, report, and accelerate progress towards campus sustainability goals. Institutions can use these tools to evaluate and prioritize sustainability projects, ensuring effective resource allocation and measurable progress towards sustainability goals. Here is an overview of some important ones:

1. Sustainability Reporting Standards

AASHE STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System): Used by over one thousand post secondaries across North America and considered the gold standard in sustainability reporting for post-secondary educational institutions.

It is a comprehensive sustainability rating system that leverages all the tools, methods and certification systems summarised below to enable institutions to measure, report, benchmark, and evaluate their sustainability performance across all post-secondary functions, including:

  • Academics: Curriculum and Research,

  • Engagement: Campus and Community,

  • Operations: Building energy efficiency and emissions, procurement, food and dining, grounds, transportation and waste, and

  • Planning & Administration: Governance, Diversity and Affordability, Employee wellbeing.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): A widely used framework for reporting on economic, environmental, and social sustainability performance. It helps institutions assess and communicate their sustainability impacts across various dimensions. This tool Is used by some institutions to structure sustainability reporting information gathered using the AASHE STARS sustainability benchmarking and reporting system.

The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB): is overseen by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and was established to deliver a global baseline of sustainability disclosures that meet capital market needs.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): is an initiative established by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) in 2015. It was formed to address the need for consistent and reliable reporting of climate-related financial information. The TCFD provides guidance for public and private organizations to assess and disclose climate-related risks and opportunities in their financial reports.

Government of Canada Climate Risk Disclosure requirement starting in 2024 federally regulated financial institutions will be required to report climate risk. Experts expect this requirement to increasingly impact many other organisations over time.

2. Carbon Footprint and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting:

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: Guidelines developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. It includes three scopes: direct emissions, indirect emissions from energy use, and other indirect emissions.

3. Energy and Water Consumption Reporting:

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: An online tool that helps institutions track and assess their energy and water consumption, as well as benchmark against similar institutions.

EPEAT: Is the premier global ecolabel for electronics and technology products.

WaterSense: A program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that provides guidelines and metrics for institutions to measure, report, and improve water efficiency.

4. Waste Management and Recycling Reporting:

: Provides a definition and guidelines for institutions aiming to achieve zero waste goals.

RecycleMania: A competition and measurement tool that tracks recycling and waste reduction efforts among participating institutions.

5. Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD):

AASHE STARs recognises campuses that use tools to evaluate procurement and project options to support more sustainable campuses.

Life Cycle Assessments (LCA): It is a method for assessing the environmental impacts of a product, process, or system throughout its entire life cycle. It helps institutions identify hotspots and make informed decisions to reduce environmental impact.

Environmental Product Declarations (EPD): Provides transparent and standardized information about the environmental impact of a product, allowing institutions to make sustainable purchasing decisions.

6. Sustainable Building Certifications:

Are integrated into the AASHE STARS reporting standard, with campuses that build, renovate and manage facilities to a high standard being recognised for their more sustainable performance.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): A widely recognized certification program that measures and rewards sustainable building strategies in areas such as energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and materials selection.

Green Building Standard (e.g., Green Globes): Offers a flexible and cost-effective approach to sustainable building certification, providing guidelines for sustainable practices and energy efficiency.

BOMA BEST – Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Canada have developed BOMA BEST (Building Environmental Standards) to assess energy and environmental performance for existing buildings (offices, shopping centres, open air retail plazas, light industrial buildings and multi-unit buildings), using the Green Globes environmental assessment platform (see below). BOMA BEST assesses environmental performance and management over the following ten areas: energy, water, air, comfort, health and wellness, custodial, purchasing, waste, site and stakeholder engagement.

BREEAM – BREEAM is a widely recognized environmental assessment method

and rating system for buildings. This international system measures performance against established benchmarks over key categories, such as energy, water, health and well-being, pollution, transport, materials, waste, land use, innovation and management processes.

Green Globes – This assessment and rating system is administered by GB Initiative Canada. It covers new construction as well as renovation projects and is used on a wide variety of commercial and public building types.

Living Building Challenge – Living Building Challenge is equal parts philosophy, advocacy platform and certification program. The intent is to define priorities not just on a technical level, but as a set of core values to direct the building industry towards truly understanding how to solve problems rather than just shifting them. This performance-based standard promotes regional solutions that respond to different variables rather than being a checklist of best practices. The challenge covers seven areas: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty.

Passive House – This certification system focuses on optimizing a building’s envelope to maintain heat through super-insulation, air tightness, high performance windows, efficient heat recovery ventilation and by minimizing thermal bridges.

With this focus on optimizing building envelope, Passive House has a high standard in terms of lowering heating energy consumption: Passive House buildings “consume up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings.” It’s a good choice for builders targeting passive design and wanting strong heating energy efficiency.

Zero Carbon Building Standard – This Canada Green Building Council Standard evaluates new and existing buildings by carbon emissions, with the goal of buildings reaching a zero carbon balance. Homes and small multi-family residential buildings are not eligible.

Sustainable Campus Collaborative will help you select and use the right tools to maximise operational efficiency and support better decision making and resource deployment. Contact us now to learn more about how we help educational institutions achieve their sustainability goals.

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