Award Spotlights the Work of the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy

Students sit under solar umbrellas on campus as a student walks by Image by Ed Brennen
Again this year, UMass Lowell is rated as a Gold Star institution for its commitment to sustainability.


Contacts for media: Emily Gowdey-Backus: and Nancy Cicco:

LOWELL, Mass. – From patio umbrellas with solar charging panels to rooftop gardens, sustainability isn’t just a goal on UMass Lowell’s campus, it’s a way of life.

That dedication was honored last month when the university’s rating as a regional leader in campus sustainability was honored with the renewal of its status as a gold campus in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. 

Ranking first in Massachusetts and gaining six points from its most recent STARS submission in 2019, UMass Lowell received an 83.37 score. The university stands less than two points shy of the 85 needed for STARS Platinum — a rating achieved by less than a dozen institutions in the United States and Canada.

UMass Lowell’s award spotlights the work of the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy (RISE), which advances research in the field and promotes community action in solving environmental challenges. The program was launched in 2019 through a $1 million donation from philanthropist and UMass Lowell graduate Brian Rist, and his wife Kim. 

Executive director of the Rist Institute, Ruairi O’Mahony, pointed to teamwork as the root of UMass Lowell’s continued success. “We are working collaboratively across traditionally siloed areas to get more done,” said O’Mahony. “Our students are engaged, hard-working and passionate about finding solutions, and that is driving how the university approaches and invests in sustainability.”

RISE hasn’t only caught the eye of AASHE. 

  • The Princeton Review’s 2021 Guide to Green Colleges singles out UMass Lowell citing it among the nation’s most environmentally responsible higher education institutions.
  • The Sierra Club ranks UMass Lowell No. 24 among more than 325 U.S. colleges and universities in its “Cool Schools” list.
  • In an inaugural ranking, UMass Lowell was certified as a “zero waste” campus by the Post-Landfill Action Network and checks in at No. 6 on the organization’s “Zero Waste Campuses” list. 

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.