Appalachian earns AASHE's top overall sustainability ranking

BOONE—Appalachian State University has been recognized as a top performer in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index, achieving the highest ranking overall, No. 1, among master’s institutions. The university also ranked No. 2 in the area of curriculum and No. 5 in buildings.

The 2016 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI), a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), highlights top-performing colleges and universities in 17 areas and overall by institution type, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System™ (STARS).

STARS, which was developed by AASHE, is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Of the institutions that have registered to use the STARS reporting tool, 649 have been ranked. Appalachian is a Pilot and Charter participant in STARS and in 2015, was ranked the second highest rated university in sustainability performance to date.

“We are honored to be recognized for our achievements by such a respected institution as AASHE,” said Appalachian’s Chancellor Sheri N. Everts. “Our leadership in sustainability is known nationally and is a consideration in every decision we make regarding curriculum, growth, community engagement and stewardship. The Dougherty brothers founded Watauga Academy in 1899 to improve education and therefore quality of life in our region. As an institution, we have steadfastly continued to live by – and practice – this same philosophy, with the mission to improve the environment, economic and social equity of our community, region and world.”

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As the No. 1 overall top performer among master’s institutions that are ranked, Appalachian has a gold rating score of 77.2 in the new AASHE index, as compared to a U.S. average of 53.8 for similar institutions. The master’s institutions category includes colleges and universities that award at least 50 master’s degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees annually (adapted from Carnegie Basic Classification).

The SCI’s overall, building and curriculum rankings are based on comprehensive data previously submitted by each institution to STARS. Some highlights that support Appalachian’s overall No. 1 ranking and No. 5 buildings ranking include:

  • 10 LEED®-certified buildings
  • implementation of energy performance contracts which have resulted in energy savings improvements to multiple campus facilities, including lighting replacements, fume hood replacements, HVAC efficiencies and a new data center for the campus
  • national Climate Leadership Award recipient from Second Nature, a national nonprofit agency, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Center for Green Schools in 2015
  • inclusion in The Princeton Review’s 2016 rankings as one of the most environmentally responsible institutions of higher learning in the U.S.
  • recognition by SIERRA magazine, for the seventh year running, “for helping solve climate problems, making significant efforts to operate sustainably, and shaping future environmental citizens, workers and leaders”
  • creation and development of the annual Appalachian Energy Summit, which convened in 2016 for the fifth year. This has resulted in a University of North Carolina system-wide commitment to energy use reduction and a savings of almost $500 million in avoided energy costs across the 17 campuses.
  • commitment to a campus-wide “zero waste” plan beginning in 2012 with a goal to divert 90 percent of Appalachian’s waste from landfill disposal by 2022

Appalachian’s curriculum score is 95.6 percent – 38.22 of 40 possible points – compared to the national average of 55.8 percent. Overall, Appalachian excels as an institution in that:

  • 100 percent of Appalachian’s academic departments offer at least one sustainability course or course that includes sustainability
  • all Appalachian students graduate from programs that have adopted at least one sustainability learning outcome
  • the university offers both undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs, as well as immersive experience programs that focus on sustainability
  • efforts to incentivize the expansion of the university’s sustainability course offerings are ongoing

“This achievement solidifies our place as one of the leading schools in higher education that truly excels in academic sustainability,” Interim Director for the Office of Sustainability Lee F. Ball Jr. said. “In addition, the university’s conservation efforts and national recognition speak to our overall commitment to sustainability.”

“Appalachian’s strong performance demonstrates significant leadership and commitment to advancing sustainability,” said AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “We are pleased to recognize Appalachian for working to secure a thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world by incorporating sustainability into campus operations, administration, engagement and academics.”

The top performers overall by institution type (Associate, Baccalaureate, Master’s and Doctoral/Research) is a new section for this year’s publication. Other institutions that achieved the top spot overall according to institution type were: Colorado State University (Doctoral/Research); Green Mountain College (Baccalaureate) and Kankakee Community College (Associate).

Appalachian’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website: The STARS overview of all participants is available at

About Sustainability at Appalachian

Appalachian State University’s leadership in sustainability is known nationally. The university’s holistic, three-branched approach considers sustainability economically, environmentally and equitably in relationship to the planet’s co-inhabitants. The university is an active steward of the state’s interconnected financial, cultural and natural resources and challenges students and others think critically and creatively about sustainability and what it means from the smallest individual action to the most broad-based applications. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs that focus on sustainability. In addition, 100 percent of Appalachian’s academic departments offer at least one sustainability course or course that includes sustainability, and all students graduate from programs that have adopted at least one sustainability learning outcome.

About the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)

AASHE empowers higher education faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE enables members to translate information into action by offering essential resources and professional development to a diverse, engaged community of sustainability leaders. The organization works with and for institutions of higher education to ensure that the world’s future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges. For more information, visit

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.