Columbia ranked as Top Performer in 2018 AASHE Sustainable Campus Index

August 22, 2018

Columbia University has been recognized in the 2018 Sustainable Campus Index, achieving the top spot in Transportation and coming in third in Research among doctoral institutions. The 2018 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), highlights top-performing colleges and universities overall and in 17 impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

“We are pleased to highlight Columbia University in this year’s Sustainable Campus Index,” said AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “We hope that the efforts and progress made by Columbia will help to continuously advance sustainability within higher education and also help lead to a more equitable and ecologically healthy future for society as a whole.”

In the area of Transportation, where Columbia earned top marks, 2018 saw an expansion of carpool and carshare incentive programs, as well as the addition of six battery-electric buses to the intercampus shuttle fleet. The new Columbia Transportation fleet – among the first electric buses to be introduced in New York City – offers both environmental and health benefits, including reduced emissions (up to 70 percent), less noise pollution, and improved air quality.

Columbia unveiled its first campus-wide sustainability plan in 2017, pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent in the next three years. The plan, released a day before Earth Day, represents a practical fulfillment of the sustainability principles that University President Lee C. Bollinger announced at the beginning of the 2016 academic year. It sets clear targets for shrinking Columbia’s carbon footprint and reducing waste by improving efficiencies in campus operations, boosting composting, recycling and public transit use, and investing in energy-saving technology. More than a year in the making, the plan was produced with extensive input from students, administrators and faculty scientists—many of them world leaders in the sustainability field.

For any plan to succeed, it must be measurable and accountable. To that end, Columbia published its first-ever Sustainable Columbia Annual Progress Report in April of 2018, showcasing the important work of many dedicated Columbians to meet the goals and strategies established in the Plan.

Columbia also received the third place spot in the area of Research, led by the Earth Institute. The institute reaches across the University to forge collaborations among scientists, faculty and experts in a great variety of disciplines, from climatology to law, and from engineering to economics and public policy. Research is centered around the fundamental themes of Climate; Water; Energy; Global Health; Ecosystems; Agriculture; Hazards and Risk Reduction; Urbanization; and Peace and Justice.


The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS was developed by AASHE with broad participation from the higher education community. The credits included in STARS span the breadth of higher education sustainability and are organized into four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. All reports are publicly accessible on the STARS website. For more information, visit

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

AASHE empowers higher education administrators, 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. We work with and for higher education to ensure that our world's future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges. For more information, visit Follow AASHE on Facebook and Twitter.