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Process & Timeline

STAR certification allows communities to measure and baseline their sustainability performance against the national standards and benchmarks in the STAR Community Rating System. U.S cities and counties of all sizes and resource levels have achieved certification under the rating system. There is no minimum or maximum community size for pursuing certification, however the city or county government must be the primary applicant. Communities as small as Park Forest, IL (pop. 22,000) and as large as Houston, TX (pop. 2.2 million) have successfully achieved STAR certification.

On average, the certification process takes a community a year from start to finish. Communities begin by aligning their existing programs, policies, and plans with the STAR Community Rating System using project management tools and resources provided by STAR. Then they gather data on the evaluation measures of their choice from the rating system and enter the data into STAR’s online data entry and reporting platform. Because the rating system measures community-wide sustainability, data and information on programs will need to be provided by a variety of different governmental departments and agencies, as well as from community stakeholders and civic partners.

The most common project management set-up has been to have 1 or 2 key staff people (if two, normally a day-to-day and an advisory role) supported by interns, a community sustainability group, a green team, and/or a university partner. In general, the project team spends 1-2 months on getting organized and 4-6 months on data collection if they are working on a part-time basis.

Once the community has completed as many of the 526 measures as possible, they submit their online application for verification. The STAR Technical Team then performs a robust verification process that includes an opportunity for the community to make amendments or edits to the application. The Technical Team assigns the final STAR Community Rating®, which lasts for 4 years, at which point the community is expected to report on progress and recertify.

To gain access to the online application materials and methodologies and resources for certification, a community must sign up for the STAR Full Access annual subscription package. There are no prerequisites for certification. Learn more about our subscriptions and technical assistance programs.