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Understanding STAR

STAR Communities is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that  works to evaluate, improve and certify sustainable communities. STAR helps cities and counties achieve a healthy environment, a strong economy and well being for their residents. Technical experts, sustainability leaders and local government officials developed the rating system to provide a transparent and data-driven mechanism to improve local communities.

For more information, please download our two-page flyer. You can also access all press releases on our website.

WHAT IS A SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY?

A sustainable community promotes a healthy environment, a strong economy and well being for all residents, now and for future generations.

WHAT IS THE STAR COMMUNITY RATING SYSTEM?

The STAR Community Rating System is the nation’s first comprehensive framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing economic, environmental and social performance measures.  Local leaders use the rating system’s evaluation measures to assess their current level of sustainability, set targets for moving ahead, and measure progress along the way.

The STAR Community Rating System is the nation’s first comprehensive framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing economic, environmental and social performance measures.  Local leaders use the rating system’s evaluation measures to assess their current level of sustainability, set targets for moving ahead, and measure progress along the way.

The STAR Community Rating System is organized around 7 thematic Goal Areas:  Built Environment; Climate & Energy; Economy & Jobs; Education, Arts & Community; Equity & Empowerment; Health & Safety; and Natural Systems. An eighth category, Innovation & Process, allows communities to get extra credit in areas where they excel and propose new credits to support the evolution of sustainability practice. Within the 7 Goal Areas, there are 44 Objectives. See the following framework of Goals & Objectives:

STAR Framework of Goals & Objectives

Who developed the STAR Community Rating System?

STAR was developed for local governments by local governments. Nearly 200 volunteers representing 50 cities and counties, state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, national associations, universities, utilities and private corporations contributed thousands of hours and diverse expertise to the development of the STAR Community Rating System. Serving on steering, technical and ad hoc committees, these volunteer experts led the development of the framework, credits, methodologies for measurement and requirements for achieving and maintaining a STAR Community Rating.

Why is STAR needed?

Sustainability means different things to different people, so STAR provides a clear, data-driven approach to assessing communities’ sustainability efforts. The STAR framework helps communities assess their efforts in seven key areas and define sustainability for themselves. This robust framework is necessary for communities to credibly track their progress toward overall sustainability objectives and to allow communities to compare progress with each other.

How does it work?

Communities sign up as a Member STAR Community and then select from different levels of support as they work to assess and certify their sustainability efforts. The Leadership program provides the highest level of support from STAR Communities’ staff, including a dedicated STAR coordinator and ongoing educational webinars about issues related to the rating system.

For communities that pursue certification, the rating system encompasses economic, environmental and social performance measures for both local governments and the broader community. Communities must fill out an online application detailing their achievements across 44 sustainability objectives, with a total of 526 different measurable indicators. STAR Communities’ verification team then reviews the community’s application as an independent third-party and awards a rating based upon a total cumulative score of points achieved.

What is the Certification Process?

The primary applicant for a STAR Community Rating is a local government – a town, city or county government. Participating local governments fill out the online application by providing data on a variety of community sustainability indicators and coordinating data collection from outside agencies and community partners. Once a community submits a completed application, STAR Communities’ staff review and verify data for accuracy, and then assign a rating upon a total cumulative score of points achieved out of a maximum of 720 points.

Communities receive a rating based on the number of points achieved across the menu-based rating system. Communities choose the measures that they would like to report on and are not required to submit on all measures. This allows local governments to report on the objectives that are most important and relevant to their communities.

Since STAR is a menu and communities decide which measures to report on, the final scores do not provide a true head-to-head comparison. Instead, the STAR Community Rating System includes 3 certification levels, making it a rating (not a ranking) system.

Points required for the certification levels are as follows:

  • 3-STAR Community – 200-399 points
    • Recognized for sustainability leadership
  • 4-STAR Community – 400-599 points
    • Recognized for national excellence
  • 5-STAR Community – 600+ points
    • Recognized as top tier achiever in national sustainability

A STAR Community Rating lasts for 3 years after the certification date.