Mason achieves gold rating in sustainability but is not done

Merten Hall is an example of a "green" building on campus. Photo Credit: Amy Rose

Merten Hall is an example of a “green” building on campus.
Photo Credit: Amy Rose

George Mason University prides itself on the campuses’ environmental friendliness, and now the university has been recognized for its green achievements with a gold rating in sustainability.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recently awarded Mason a gold rating in sustainability through their Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System.

According to the AASHE website, “[STARS is] a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.”

Gold is the second highest achievement a STARS participant can receive.

According to Margaret Lo, the university sustainability director, in 2007, former Mason president Alan Merten signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which pledged to make the university climate neutral by 2050. Mason has since been working to become more sustainable by reducing its energy consumption, trying to build more efficient buildings, managing its waste and reducing its single occupancy vehicle amounts.

“We’ve also spent a lot of time trying to use, and putting the structures in place for students and faculty and staff to be able to use the campus as what we call a living laboratory,” Lo said.

When the Office of Sustainability found out that Mason received a gold rating, they were proud of the achievement.

“It is encouraging to know that there are people within the Mason community who care about this issue and want us to do better and be better and help provide solutions to global problems,” Lo said.

Despite Mason’s gold rating, the Office of Sustainability is not done making improvements. According to Lo, there is always more to be done, but it is not always easy.

“Every year it gets harder [to improve]. The industry develops and there are people who have higher expectations, so you have to stay ahead of that and you have to stay innovative,” Lo said.

Lo encourages students, faculty and staff to help make Mason more sustainable.

“Each person’s actions make a difference,” Lo said. “If you decide to take [the] metro, that’s one less car, fewer emissions and more parking spaces for people who really need it. If [students] want to make a difference on campus, the sustainability Living Learning Community, the Green Patriots, the Green Office, those are all areas where people can actually get plugged in and get involved.”

According to Lo, the areas related to energy, waste, water and commuting are the most challenging areas to improve but also make the biggest impact.

“What I like about Mason is that they are willing to try ideas out and our students,” Lo said. “When they are interested in something, the administration really pays attention.”