Ratings & Rankings
The primary tool used by the University of Louisville to measure our progress in sustainability is the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) framework developed by AASHE (the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education). As a Charter Participant in STARS, UofL was the first school in the region -- and the 10th in the nation -- to achieve a STARS rating; UofL was the first school in Kentucky to achieve a STARS Gold rating; and we have always enjoyed the highest STARS rating in Kentucky. Check out the map of STARS schools.
As part of our university-wide strategic plan, UofL seeks to progressively improve our overall STARS rating and our score across all sections of the framework. We are staying true to that goal.
UofL has consistently improved its overall STARS score over the years, with our most recent STARS Gold rating (68.45%) in May of 2022, documenting a 2.21% improvement over our 2019 STARS Gold rating (66.24%). This was the fifth STARS report we submitted since 2011 and we continue to increase our score each time. UofL is proud to have consistently maintained the highest STARS rating of any school in Kentucky, and we rank 4th among our official Benchmark Institutions. UofL has also remained in the top 100 most sustainable schools on the planet! This steady progress in sustainability has kept UofL in a leadership role in environmental, social, and economic stewardship.
“UofL’s unwavering commitment to the health of our planet is another reason to be proud of this institution, but this is not the time to remain idle. We will and we must continue this hard work to ensure a bright future. I am so proud of our faculty, staff and students who are devoted to this issue for the university and in their daily lives.”
- President Neeli Bendapudi on occasion of UofL's STARS Gold Rating, April 2019
UofL retains top spot in sustainability ratings (UofL News & The Lane Report, April 24, 2019)
UofL received Gold STARS rating for 2019 (The Louisville Cardinal, April 25, 2019)
Our STARS rating documents some of the truly innovative things we’re doing to advance sustainability. We earned four new Innovation Credits for the: 1. Green Heart Project; 2. Urban Heat Island Study and Youth Summit organized through the Partnership for a Green City; 3. Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research; and 4. Maple tapping on campus. We also documented our strengths and progress in:
- Academics, including our new Major in Sustainability and wide array of Campus As A Living Laboratory projects.
- Engagement, including our new Living-Learning Community in Sustainability and Student Sustainability Fund.
- Operations, including Sustainable Dining initiatives, Biodiversity protection, Sustainable Procurement policies, support for Sustainable Transportation, Construction Waste Diversion, Hazardous Waste Management, and Stormwater Management.
- Planning & Administration, with superlative Sustainability Coordination, Support for Underrepresented Groups, and Wellness Program.
The following table summarizes our progress:
As the report makes clear, there is important work before us to not only maintain our standing, but to push ahead towards STARS Platinum (at 85%).
Below are some key recommendations that ought to be considered in our planning going forward. To continue making progress on sustainability, UofL must:
- Maintain a commitment to sustainability as an explicitly stated core value of the university. Sustainability needs to remain in our strategic plan with a goal to improve our overall STARS score by at least three points in the next three years, with the longer-term goal of achieving STARS Platinum (85% or more).
- Reaffirm our 2008 commitment to addressing the greatest challenge facing humanity and update our 2010 Climate Action Plan to commit to new, bolder goals to reduce our carbon emissions.
- Ensure 100% of employees and on-campus contract workers receive a living wage (currently $15.42/hr) with the total compensation provided to our lowest paid regular employee meeting or exceeding 200% of the living wage.
- Make an annual snapshot of the UofL Foundation's entire investment holdings publicly available, including specific funds/companies and proxy voting record.
- Ensure that at least 30-60% of the UofL Foundation’s investment pool is sustainably invested in: Sustainable industries (e.g. renewable energy or sustainable forestry), Businesses selected for exemplary sustainability performance, Sustainability investment funds, Community development financial institutions, Socially responsible mutual funds, and Green revolving loan funds.
- Increase affordability and access by expanding the percentage of: entering students who are low-income or eligible for need-based aid; graduating low-income students or those receiving need-based aid; need met for students who were awarded any need-based aid; and students graduating with no interest-bearing student loan debt or for whom no out-of-pocket tuition is required.
- Rejoin the Worker Rights Consortium with a small fraction of the revenues from our trademark licensing to ensure that UofL apparel is not made in sweatshops.
- Reduce waste and inefficiency in the operation and maintenance of our buildings by hiring a full-time, LEED-certified Energy Manager; by working toward the certification of building space as LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance; or by developing for uncertified spaces an energy management program, a green cleaning policy/program/contract, and/or a water management program.
- Develop a comprehensive plan to increase the percentage of renewable energy that UofL sources (on and off site) from the current 4.5% toward 80-100% in the next decade.
- Enhance the sustainability and local impact of our food and beverage purchasing by developing plans to: 1. reduce our total expenditures on conventional animal products; 2. increase food & beverage sourcing which is third-party verified (e.g. organic, fair trade, or Marine Stewardship Council) and/or sourced from local producers within 250 miles of campus.
- Reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips to campus and the distances traveled by commuters through a comprehensive Transportation Demand Management Plan that not only provides transportation alternatives, but addresses the abundance of subsidized, convenient parking accessed via annual permits and the need for attractive and affordable housing for students and employees to live within three miles of campus.
- Reduce the total amount of solid waste generated by UofL per capita and hire a full-time Zero Waste Coordinator.
- Reduce potable water use per capita, per square foot of building space, and per vegetated acre by up to 30% relative to 2006.
- Increase the percentage of academic departments and courses that expose students to the concepts, skills, and knowledge necessary to understand and address the interdisciplinary challenges of sustainability - i.e. wise social, economic, and environmental stewardship.
- Develop a published open access to research policy that ensures that future scholarly articles by faculty and staff are deposited in a designated open access repository for the benefit of all.
- Develop and conduct a pre- and post-assessment of sustainability literacy for our students.
Anyone can view finalized STARS reports from individual schools online without creating an AASHE Account. There are some additional, very useful features within the STARS Dashboard for doing research into STARS reports (particularly the Content Display function which allows you to filter down to specific credits and/or particular types of schools, etc.) that you can only access with an AASHE Account, which is available to all UofL employees and students through our institutional AASHE membership. (It’s also worth noting that with such an account you can also access all of the great materials, reports, discussion groups, etc. available in AASHE’s Resource Center). Here's how:
Step 1: If you do not have an AASHE Account, UofL students and employees may create one here (simply using your @louisville.edu email address).
Step 2: To access the full range of features on the STARS Dashboard, log-in using your email address and password associated with your AASHE Account. If you have lost or forgotten your AASHE password, you may re-set it here.
UofL wins gold in sustainability (UofL News, March 4, 2016)
University of Louisville Wins Gold In Global Sustainability Standard (WFPL 89.3fm, March 5, 2016)
UofL notches a higher sustainability score (Courier-Journal, March 7, 2016)
UofL achieves STARS Gold sustainability rating (The Louisville Cardinal, March 20, 2016)
AUDIO: Justin Mog discusses UofL's Gold rating for sustainability - highest among Kentucky schools (starts 10:00) (UofL Today with Mark Hebert, 93.9 FM The Ville, April 18, 2016) Video.
2011 STARS press conference: See Video, Photos, and the following stories:
UofL's sustainability efforts rank silver, gold (UofL Today)
University of Louisville earns 'silver' sustainability rating (The Courier-Journal)
U of L recognized for achievements in going green (WHAS-TV)
UofL gets recognition for green efforts (WAVE 3 TV)
- UofL has achieved Tree Campus Higher Education (formerly Tree Campus USA) status from the Arbor Day Foundation for every year since 2010.
- In March 2022, UofL received official designation from the League of American Bicyclists as a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly University. The designation is valid for four years 2021-2025.
This marked the third time UofL achieved such a designation. In November 2017, UofL achieved Silver-level for years 2017-2021. In 2013, UofL was named the most bicycle-friendly university in Kentucky, as the first in the Commonwealth to achieve a Silver rating in the League's Bicycle Friendly University program!
As of March 2022, there were a total of 222 Bicycle Friendly Universitiesin 47 states and the District of Columbia. Four of those schools are in Kentucky (current levels and dates of first gaining status below):
- University of Kentucky (Gold, 2012)
- University of Louisville (Silver, 2013)
- Morehead State University (Silver, 2016)
- Transylvania University (Bronze, 2015)
UofL’s Justin Mog wins city’s 2017 environmental leadership award (UofL News, June 5, 2017)
UofL’s Justin Mog Wins Annual Joan Riehm Environmental Award (WFPL, June 5, 2017)
UofL employee receives Environmental Leadership Award (WDRB, June 5, 2017)
UofL recognized in Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses & The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges (UofL Sustainability News, Nov. 8, 2022)
- In Spring 2015, Purposeful Networks (formerly known as myActions) recognized University of Louisville with a Gold Level Student Actions Award. UofL was one of only seven gold-level schools out of 125 recognized nationwide. This recognition was the result of considerable effort on the part of UofL students to take and log a wide variety of sustainability actions on campus, from eating local to turning off lights to volunteering in the community. In Fall 2014, UofL received a nationally recognized sustainability award from myActions.org for “green and compassionate student actions.” The Student Actions Award recognized undergraduate schools for student leadership and progress, as well as the impact of green and healthy activities. See: UofL recognized as “green and compassionate” (The Louisville Cardinal, March 30, 2015)
- In October 2014, UofL won the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education AASHE Award for Best Case Study from a Four-Year or Graduate Institution with More Than 10,000 Full-Time Students for the Earn-A-Bike Program. The award was received before an audience of thousands at AASHE’s 2014 national conference in Portland, OR where the case study was presented.
- In September 2014, the Sustainability Council's EcoReps Program received the 2014 Multimedia MVP2 (Most-Valuable Pollution Prevention) Award for best video series with a Major Impact on Preventing Pollution from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable.
- In 2014 and 2015, UofL won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from Insight into Diversity magazine. The award recognizes colleges that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to building a diverse and inclusive environment. UofL wins diversity award for second consecutive year (UofL Today, Sept. 28, 2015)
- In September 2013, UofL received the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection’s 2013 Resource Caretaker Award at the 37th Governor’s Conference on Energy & the Environment in Lexington, KY.
Other Sustainability Rankings
The Liberal Arts Get Schooled [featuring UofL Student Composter, Angie Carlson] (Sierra Magazine, Aug. 2013)
UofL has also been honored in other rankings of environmental, social, and economic performance which speak to our commitment to sustainability, such as:
The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) has twice ranked UofL in their annual list of Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses. In October 2022, PLAN ranked UofL #8 and, in 2021, UofL ranked #7 in PLAN’s first annual list of Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses in the U.S. The rankings were earned as a result of conducting a comprehensive Zero Waste Atlas Assessment in 2020 that was designed to help campuses assess and streamline campus systems for materials management. The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) gave UofL an overall Zero Waste score of 58.2% (864.5 out of a total possible 1600.5 points). This compares very favorably to the other campuses PLAN works with, which average between 40-50%. For Scope 1 surplus property and hard-to-recycle materials, UofL scored a 63.4% (427.75 + 24 additional credits out of a total possible 712 points). For Scope 2 food waste and single-use materials, UofL scored a 53.9% (437 +42.25 additional credits out of a total possible 888.5 points). This assessment laid the groundwork for the development of UofL's first Zero Waste Plan in 2021. Read the full PLAN Atlas Report here.
Diversity & Inclusion:
In 2022, for the ninth year, UofL was named a recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. UofL also earned recognition for the fourth year in a row as a Health Professions HEED Award winner. The Cardinals have proven leadership as a three-time Diversity Champion, a distinction given to institutions scoring in the top tier of all HEED Award winners. Diversity Champions set the standard for thousands of other campus communities striving for diversity and inclusion. Read More.
UofL recognized for providing equal access to Black and Latinx students (UofL News 7/23/20)
UofL recognized for voter registration efforts (UofL News 3/27/17)
Black & Latinx Accessibility:
In 2020, UofL was identified as one of only three top universities in the United States that provides equal access to both Black and Latinx students. The Education Trust report, “Segregation Forever? The Continued Underrepresentation of Black and Latino Undergraduates at the Nation’s 101 Most Selective Public Colleges and Universities,” examined how well the top public universities serve an undergraduate student body that represents the racial and ethnic diversity of their particular state’s population. UofL earned perfect access scores of 100 for both Black and Latinx students, while the report found the overwhelming majority of the nation’s most selective public colleges are still inaccessible for Black and Latinx undergraduates. See full story: UofL recognized for providing equal access to Black and Latinx students (UofL News, July 23, 2020)
Affordable Eco-Friendly College:
Best Choice Schools named UofL #38 in its ranking of the Top 50 Great Affordable Eco-Friendly Colleges.
Voter Friendly Campus:
- UofL earned voter-friendly campus status for 2019-2020 and 2017-2018. As part of Campus Vote Project and NASPA’s “Voter Friendly Campus” program, this designation is given to campuses that show commitment to ensuring students have the information and tools they need to register and vote.
- In Fall 2019, UofL earned a gold seal for excellence in voter engagement. The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge awarded UofL the gold seal for achieving student voting rates up to 49%.
In 2022, UofL was named among America’s “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly universities for the fourth year. UofL earned five out of five stars in the Campus Pride Index, prepared by a national nonprofit organization that rates colleges and universities according to their support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. UofL is the only public institution in Kentucky to be recognized by the organization. In order to be in the Top 25 listing, an institution had to score the highest percentages in the LGBTQ-friendly benchmarks for policies, programs and practices. The Campus Pride Index is designed to help campuses learn ways to improve their LGBT campus life and shape the educational experience to be more inclusive, welcoming and respectful. It also provides students a tool for finding inclusive schools.
In 2015, UofL was named one of the Top 25 Healthiest Colleges in U.S. by the healthy living website, Greatist.com.
Great College for Cycling:
In December 2013, UofL was named 1 of 9 Great Colleges for Cyclists by Bicycling Magazine.
The Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges:
Having already appeared in the 2012, , 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 editions, UofL is featured in the . In 2021, UofL received a nearly perfect Green Rating of 97 out of 99! This represents an increase in our rating of 88 in 2018 and 93 in 2017. Below is our 2021 listing in The Princeton Review's Guide to Green Schools:
University of Louisville is quite proud of its achievements regarding sustainability and with good reason! The university is whole-heartedly embracing the role of environmental steward. An ACUPCC signatory since 2008, UofL is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and, having already cut emissions 22 percent, plans to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. All new construction and/or building renovations are executed in accordance with Kentucky’s High Performance Building Standards using the LEED Green Building Program. The university currently boasts four LEED Gold facilities including the new geothermal Student Rec Center and four LEED Silver buildings including the newly renovated School of Dentistry. UofL is also happily exploring renewable energy. For example, Sackett Hall features a dual-axis tracking solar array (the only one of its kind in the state). This provides both electricity and hot water for the building and is 30 percent more efficient than fixed solar panels. Additionally, students and faculty are actively involved in converting Dining Services’ waste into resources for the campus. Food waste is collected, composted, and turned into fertilizer for campus gardens. Waste cooking oil is converted into biodiesel to power campus shuttles. Outside of these actions and policies, the university also hosts a number of events to encourage the Louisville community to get involved. For example, this past year UofL residents competed in Bluegrass Unplugged. This annual contest pits University of Louisville students against students from surrounding Kentucky colleges to see who can reduce electricity usage in residence halls the most. And many students eagerly attend monthly EcoReps workshops and the Sustainability Scholars Roundtable, a brown bag seminar series highlighting interdisciplinary sustainability research happening at UofL
|Green rating||97 / 99|
|AASHE STARS® rating||Gold|
|School Has Formal Sustainability Committee||Yes|
|Sustainability-focused degree available||Yes|
|School employs a sustainability officer||Yes|
|Public GHG inventory plan||Yes|
|% food budget spent on local/organic food||7%|
|Available Transportation Alternatives|
|Car Sharing Program||Yes|
|Carpool/Vanpool Matching Program||Yes|
|Condensed Work Week Option For Employees||Yes|
|Free Or Reduced Price Transit Passes And/Or Free Campus Shuttle||Yes|
|Indoor And Secure Bike Storage, Shower Facilities, And Lockers For Bicycle Commuters||Yes|
|Reduced Parking Fees For Car And Van Poolers||Yes|
|School Adopted A Policy Prohibiting Idling||Yes|
|School Developed Bicycle Plan||Yes|
|School Offers A Telecommute Program For Employees||Yes|
Data provided by Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), STARS®, as of March, 2020.
Sierra Club's "Cool Schools" Rankings (suspended in 2021):
2021: Sierra magazine again ranked UofL as the "Coolest" in the Commonwealth, at #108 (65.79 pts.) out of 328 in its 2021 Cool Schools rankings. Three other Kentucky schools made the 2021 list: UK #252 (49.17 pts.), WKU #263 (48.12 pts.), and EKU #298 (40.06 pts.).
2020: Sierra magazine again ranked UofL in the Top 100 “Coolest Schools” (out of a record large pool of 312 colleges & universities surveyed this year) with a rank of #97 (65.79 pts.). We also maintained our status as the Coolest in the Commonwealth! Four other Kentucky schools made the list: Berea #127 (63.69 pts.), UK #234 (49.17 pts.), WKU #251 (48.12 pts.), and EKU #283 (40.06 pts.).
2019: UofL rocketed back into the top 100, ranking #84 (out of 282) in Sierra Club's 2019 Cool Schools list. We are once again ranked as the "Coolest School" in Kentucky! Three other Kentucky schools made the list: Berea #112 (63.69 pts.), WKU #165 (54.08 pts.), and EKU # 259 (40.06 pts.).
2018: UofL slipped to #104 (out of 268) in Sierra Club's 2018 Cool Schools list with an overall score of 63.22 (out of 100). UofL ranked just below Berea College (101st with 63.69), but maintained our ranking as the "Coolest" Public School in Kentucky (WKU is 150th; EKU is 244th).
2017: UofL ranked #51 (out of 229) in Sierra Club's 2017 Cool Schools list. With a total score of 607.77 (out of a possible 1000), UofL continues to be ranked above any other school in Kentucky (WKU was 56th; Berea was 91st).
2016: UofL increased our ranking to #43 in Sierra Club’s 2016 Cool Schools list. With a total score of 622.30 (out of a possible 1000), UofL was the highest ranked school in Kentucky on the list of 201 institutions nationwide!
2015: UofL increased its ranking to #73 in , and was the only school in Kentucky to make the list of 153 institutions nationwide.
2014: UofL ranked #74 in Sierra Club’s 2014 Cool Schools list, and was the only Kentucky school to make the list of 173 institutions nationwide.
2013: UofL continued to make significant progress in sustainability across the board, as demonstrated by the fact that our overall score jumped in the 2013 Cool Schools rankings from 510.89 (out of a possible 1000) in 2012 to 625.74 in 2013. We improved our score by nearly 11.5%. UofL continued to hold the top position in the state, ranking 53rd out of 162 schools nationally.
2012: UofL was the only Kentucky school included in the 2012 Sierra Club Cool Schools Rankings, and UofL was named among 50 greenest U.S. schools, ranking 48th out of 96. See UofL's 2012 Survey Response. Read more.
2011: In 2011, UofL increased its ranking to #41 out of 118, up from #61 in 2010 and #92 in 2009, and the top school in Kentucky for 2011 (Sierra magazine, Sept/Oct 2011).
- UofL had been increasing its grade in the Sustainable Endowment Institute's annual College Sustainability Report Card until the rating was suspended 2011.