College’s Self-Evaluation of Sustainability Practices Approved and Certified Through AASHE STARS Program

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Further demonstrating its commitment to improving College-wide sustainability practices, SUNY Orange has earned a “bronze” rating for a recently completed yearlong self-study as part of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

SUNY Orange, a charter member of the STARS program and an early signee of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, continues to strengthen its sustainability resume through such projects as constructing sustainable buildings, reducing its environmental footprint, and injecting green technologies and topics into its curriculum.

PHOTO: Installation of the Educational GardensSTARS participants report achievements in the areas of: education and research; operations; and planning, administration and engagement. Participants earn credits for a variety of areas within each evaluation category, and the credits are compiled into a final rating. SUNY Orange accumulated score of 35.45 (out of a possible 100) in the review process.

“We are pleased with our ranking. We expected to fall somewhere in the bronze or silver level, and that’s where we are,” says Dr. William Richards, SUNY Orange president. “Through this process, we learned where we are strong and where we can get better. We have made a long-term commitment toward improving our sustainability program, and going through this intensive process was very worthwhile. We expect to make great strides in the coming years. As our program grows, we are confident that our future STARS ratings will improve as well.”

In 2008, the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees made sustainability one of five strategic priorities in the College’s Strategic Plan 2009-2014. Additionally, the College has formulated a Sustainability Master Plan to guide its efforts, named a part-time sustainability coordinator to oversee plans and projects, and established a standing Sustainability Committee with representatives from all corners of the College.

During the past two summers, the College has operated on a four-day work week, reducing its energy usage. It has greatly expanded its recycling program and has begun an e-waste recycling program. Boiler temperatures are lowered on weekends and during vacations, new lighting fixtures and compact florescent bulbs have been installed in many buildings, and several green infrastructure projects--campus rain garden and riparian stream buffer restoration along Wawayanda Avenue--have been completed.

This past fall, the Trustees also approved a policy requiring the College to construct all new buildings of 20,000 square feet or larger to LEED Silver specifications. SUNY Orange will soon be completing a Climate Action Plan and has received an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant from Orange County, awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Resource and Recover Act, to perform an energy audit on its Middletown campus.

In addition, the Newburgh campus--which was not included in the College’s initial STARS submission but will be part of the next report--will be a bellwether for sustainability.

PHOTO: Kaplan HallKaplan Hall is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED Certification and includes many environmentally friendly features both internally and externally. A rooftop array of photovoltaic panels is expected to generate 2.5 percent of the building’s annual electric power needs. High-performance windows and sunshades will help moderate the building’s internal temperature. Energy efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems will provide a high level of comfort and a healthy indoor environment.

The campus plaza will serve as a green roof for the underground parking garage. Rainwater will be collected from the roof of Kaplan Hall in underground cisterns for irrigation of the plaza greenery. Water efficient landscaping and native plants will adorn the campus. Upcoming renovations to the Tower Building will mirror some of the environmentally friendly features incorporated into Kaplan Hall.

Through all of its sustainability efforts, the College hopes to infuse systemic changes campus-wide that will create more efficient and environmentally friendly campuses in Middletown and Newburgh; create a College-wide “culture” of environmental stewardship via programming that stresses outreach, education and awareness; and raise the “Sustainability IQ” of students, faculty and staff through ongoing programs that promote current trends, the College’s “green” procedures and ways that the College community can become involved.

PHOTO: Go Green logoSTARS is the only rating system of its kind that involves public reporting of comprehensive information related to a college’s or university’s sustainability performance. SUNY Orange is one of just 34 colleges and universities that have completed the intensive STARS review process. Of the 34 institutions to have reported thus far, nine have received a bronze rating, 17 have received a silver rating and seven attained a gold rating. One institution submitted data as a STARS reporter but indicated it was not seeking a rating. Nearly 250 institutions from the United States and Canada are participating in the STARS program.

STARS--a system that incorporates environmental, economic, and social indicators--is a self-reporting system that requires sign off by the institution’s highest ranking executive. STARS participants have 12 months to collect their data and, once submitted, the institution receives its rating (platinum, gold, silver, bronze). Once completed, the STARS report is viewable on the STARS website.

For more information on the STARS program, visit For the latest on SUNY Orange’s progress, visit or contact Kirsten Gabrielsen, sustainability coordinator, at (845) 341-4118.

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940