START is a sustainability tracking and roadmap tool that schools use to assess, identify, and track actions to meet their whole-school sustainability goals.
Our community expressed a need for a flexible and scalable platform that supports high-level reporting on a range of metrics (e.g.: energy and water efficiency, food waste, air quality, curriculum) that simultaneously connects schools with their district administration to share and analyze that information to support sustainability goals.
Through extensive research, we found that most currently available systems were too advanced for the common user, too time-consuming for data collection, too narrow to be scaled into mass deployment or too complicated to integrate into potential STEM curriculum and job readiness programs. A new, innovative tool had to be created to meet the needs of our community members in every category across the board.
As a result of an initial pilot program, we observed schools often lack an execution strategy for sustainability and coordinators also had to manage their capacity as volunteers with full-time school duties as teachers or administrators. Therefore, not only did the tool need to provide comprehensive data in a user-friendly way, but also be implemented in conjunction with a whole-school sustainability roadmap.
This interactive online, multi-level system enables tracking of a comprehensive range of sustainability actions. START offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels for schools to assess their current actions and establish a baseline for where they are on their sustainability journey. START’s rating system helps schools understand the cost, difficulty, and impact of each action and which to implement to reach their next goal.
53 proposed metrics were compiled for measurement and distributed to 9,756 sustainability champions from the Alliance’s 8,070+ signatory schools (the intended user audience for the framework) in addition to outreaching targeted experts in education and facility-based reporting. The result was a collaborative set of the most common and actionable metrics that provide a proven roadmap toward whole school sustainability success.
IMPACT:START helps schools methodologically create a more healthy and sustainable environment for learning based on the three principles of Whole-School Sustainability: Educational Program, Organizational Culture, and Physical Place. Students become more aware of their role and responsibility in creating a sustainable future; staff cultivate a culture of teamwork and strategic planning to embed sustainable action into everyday practices; and schools become more healthy, efficient, and engaging places to learn and work that improve both educational outcomes and promote academic development.
How You Can HelpThe Alliance is seeking funding to roll out the initial phase of the program. Your contribution to the implementation of this tool lays the framework for a concrete plan of a sustainable future worldwide. Custom sponsorship branding is available. Contact Arlae Castellanos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A tool that establishes a standard for all school and district members could give us leverage to unify nationally across determined metrics. This in turn could provide opportunities for collective procurements that could save money and increase the profile of school sustainability. Unity through standards could also provide us all with greater leverage within our own organizations to further our sustainability programs.”
— Meredith McDermott, Director of Sustainability for the New York City Department of Education
The Green Ribbon School (GRS) recognition program provides a standard suggested questionnaire as to how schools nationwide can become more environmentally sustainable. Many states have amended the GRS application to tailor it to their own needs. For instance, Kentucky follows the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines verbatim, while California’s is extremely extensive, with over 100 pages of criteria. The autonomy that these states have in the application can be positive when regional and geographical differences impact the ways in which environmental standards are assessed. However, it also leads to a lack of uniformity, making the GRS recognition program less of a baseline standard with the variance.
How is START different from the Green Ribbon School recognition program?
The START program is different in a few critical ways. With START, there is much more emphasis on coordination, governance and planning than in GRS’s application. This puts the scope of sustainability in the long term, ensuring that implemented programs are carried through change over in students, faculty and administrators. START recognizes that often the onus of environmental sustainability is disproportionately placed on only a few individuals in a school district. This has led to a third of the metrics being placed within the category of “organizational culture,” which includes creating a Sustainability Committee as well as identifying a coordinator. Another key difference is that START includes different tiers for each metric. This recognizes the stages of striving towards an ultimate goal and gives more credit to the process of reaching environmental sustainability. Finally, START provides thorough mapping as to how schools can obtain these goals. The program is accompanied with “How-To Guides” that advise schools on how to reach the goal of a greener school and ultimately district.
What is Protostar?
Protostar is a transparent, self-reporting tool designed for K-12 schools to accurately measure sustainability performance on several levels. It’s a powerful storehouse of information in the form of a database to assist schools in their path to sustainability. A school would gather and upload data regarding its sustainability to Protostar’s Reporting Tool. Once the data is submitted to Protostar, the program will provide the school sustainability statistics in comparison to pre-existing data. The school can then use these calculations in order to establish a baseline in their track to sustainability.
How is Protostar different from START?Like Protostar, the START program guides schools on their way to a more sustainable environment. A school provides START with its sustainability performance through a series of questions to assess which areas a school can improve upon. However, the START program not only details the school’s progress in sustainability, but it also offers a plethora of detailed guides a school can implement to boost its environment. In this way, schools know exactly what they can do to improve their sustainability rating without the confusion that may come with how one can become more environmentally-friendly. Another feature of START that distinguishes it from Protostar is the conveyance of how seamless the track of sustainability really is. START provides step-by-step guides, sorted by cost, difficulty, and impact, for various aspects of sustainability that can be followed by both students and faculty alike.