Lawrence is the first community in Kansas to receive a 4-STAR rating for national excellence in sustainability!

The STAR Communities framework evaluates local governments on economic, environmental and social factors to measure progress towards community sustainability.

The STAR Community Rating System (STAR) is the first national certification program to recognize sustainable communities. STAR was built by and for local governments.

Since the launch of the certification system in 2012, 51 communities have achieved STAR Certification, including regional and peer cities such as Wichita, Kansas City (MO), Columbia, Iowa City, Dubuque, Des Moines, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Fort Collins.

The STAR framework integrates economic, environmental, and social aspects of sustainability.  There are 7 goal areas, and 44 objectives by which cities are evaluated.  These include both actions of the city government and the community at-large. For more information, see the STAR website.

STAR defines a sustainable community as one that “promotes a healthy environment, a strong economy and well being for all residents, now and for future generations.”

The STAR Community Rating System is organized around 7 Goal Areas:

  1. Built Environment
  2. Climate & Energy
  3. Economy & Jobs
  4. Education, Arts & Community
  5. Equity & Empowerment
  6. Health & Safety
  7. Natural Systems

An 8th 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:
Star Sustainability Goals and Objectives Chart

The City received a 4 STAR rating (out of 5) through the STAR rating system in 2016.  Our total score was 460 out of 720 possible points.

STAR Goal Areas and % of Available Points Received:

Education, Arts & Community
Empower vibrant, educated, connected, and diverse communities.

Health & Safety
Strengthen communities to be healthy, resilient and safe places for residents and businesses.

Built Environment
Achieve livability, choice, and access for all where people live, work, and play.

Climate & Energy
Reduce climate impacts through adaptation and mitigation efforts and increase resource efficiency.

Economy & Jobs
Create equitably shared prosperity and access to quality jobs.

Natural Systems
Protect and restore the natural resource base upon which life depends.

Equity & Empowerment
Ensure equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity for all citizens.
Innovation & Process: Supports the evolution of sustainability practice by recognizing best practices and processes, exemplary performance, and innovation. Equals 30-points.

The 7 Objectives in the Built Environment Goal Area evaluate community development patterns, livability, and design characteristics, with emphasis on access and choice for all residents regardless of income.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Built Environment Objectives:

Ambient Noise & Light
Minimize and manage ambient noise and light levels to protect public health and integrity of ecological systems.
Community Water Systems
Provide a clean and secure water supply for all local users through the management of potable water, wastewater, stormwater and other piped infrastructure.
Compact & Complete Communities
Concentrate development in compact, human-scaled, walkable centers and neighborhoods that connect to transit, offer diverse uses and services, and provide housing options for families of all income levels.
Housing Affordability
Construct, preserve, and maintain an adequate and diverse supply of location-efficient and affordable housing options for all residents.
Infill & Redevelopment
Focus new growth in infill areas and on redevelopment that does not require the extension of water, sewer, and road infrastructure or facilitate sprawl.
Public Spaces
Create a network of well-used and enjoyable parks and public spaces that feature equitable, convenient access for residents throughout the community.
Transportation Choices
Promote diverse transportation modes, including walking, bicycling, and transit, that are safe, low-cost, and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

The 7 Objectives in STAR’s Climate & Energy Goal Area aim to reduce climate impacts and increase resource efficiency in order to create safer and healthier communities.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Climate & Energy Objectives:

Climate Adaptation
Strengthen the resilience of communities to climate change impacts on built, natural, economic, and social systems.
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
Achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions throughout the community.
Greening the Energy Supply
Transition the local energy supply for both transportation and non-mobile sources toward the use of renewable, less carbon intensive, and less toxic alternatives.
Industrial Sector Resource Efficiency
Minimize resource use and demand in the industrial sector as a means to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water.
Resource Efficient Buildings
Improve the energy and water efficiency of the community’s residential, commercial, and institutional building stock.
Resource Efficient Public Infrastructure
Minimize resource use and demand in local public infrastructure as a means to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water.
Waste Minimization
Minimize and manage ambient noise and light levels to protect public health and integrity of ecological systems.

The 6 Objectives of STAR’s Economy & Jobs Goal Area work together to promote equitably shared prosperity and access to quality jobs.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Economy & Jobs Objectives:

Business Retention & Development
Foster economic prosperity and stability by retaining and expanding businesses with support from the business community.
Green Market Development
Increase overall market demand for products and services that protect the environment.
Local Economy
Create an increasingly self-reliant community through a robust local economy with benefits shared by all.
Quality Jobs & Living Wages
Expand job opportunities that support upward economic mobility and provide sufficient wages so that working people and their families can afford a decent standard of living.
Targeted Industry Development
Increase local competitiveness by strengthening networks of businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions.
Workforce Readiness
Prepare the workforce for successful employment through increasing attainment of post-secondary education and improving outcomes of workforce development programs.

The 5 Objectives of STAR’s Education, Arts & Community Goal Area promote an educated, cohesive, and socially connected community.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Education, Arts & Community Objectives:

Arts & Culture
Provide a broad range of arts and cultural resources and activities that encourage participation and creative self-expression.
Community Cohesion
Ensure a cohesive, connected community through adequate venues for community interaction, community building activities and events, and the sharing of information about community issues and services
Educational Opportunity & Attainment
Achieve equitable attainment of a quality education for individuals from birth to adulthood.
Historic Preservation
Preserve and reuse historic structures and sites to retain local, regional, and national history and heritage, reinforce community character, and conserve resources.
Social & Cultural Diversity
Celebrate and respect diversity and represent diverse perspectives in community decision-making.

The 6 Objectives in STAR’s Equity & Empowerment Goal Area promote equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity for all residents.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Equity & Empowerment Objectives:

Civic Engagement
Improve community well-being through participation in local decision-making and volunteering with community organizations.
Civil & Human Rights
Promote the full enjoyment of civil and human rights for all residents in the community.
Environmental Justice
Reduce polluted and toxic environments with an emphasis on alleviating disproportionate health hazards in areas where low income residents and persons of color live.
Equitable Services & Access
Ensure equitable access to foundational community assets within and between neighborhoods and populations.
Human Services
Ensure high quality human services programs are available and utilized to guarantee basic human needs so that all residents lead lives of dignity.
Poverty Prevention & Alleviation
Prevent people from falling into poverty and proactively enable those who are living in poverty to obtain greater, lasting economic stability and security.

The 7 Objectives in STAR’s Health & Safety Goal Area recognize that the development of healthy, safe, and resilient communities requires proactive efforts to prevent disease, injury, and premature death by fortifying protective factors and reducing risk factors that undermine healthy outcomes.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Health & Safety Objectives:

Active Living
Enable adults and kids to maintain healthy, active lifestyles by integrating physical activity into their daily routines.
Community Health & Health System
Achieve positive health outcomes and minimize health risk factors through a high quality local health system that is accessible and responsive to community needs.
Emergency Prevention & Response
Reduce harm to humans and property by utilizing long-term preventative and collaborative approaches to avoid emergency incidents and minimize their impacts.
Food Access & Nutrition
Ensure that adults and children of all income levels have opportunities to learn about nutritious eating and have physical and economic access to fresh, healthful food.
Indoor Air Quality
Ensure that indoor air quality is healthy for all people.
Natural & Human Hazards
Reduce vulnerability to all hazards, secure critical infrastructure, and ensure that communities are prepared to effectively respond to and recover from crisis.
Safe Communities
Prevent and reduce violent crime and increase perceptions of safety through interagency collaboration and with residents as empowered partners.

The 6 Objectives in the Natural Systems Goal Area help communities protect and restore the places that provide resources to support life. The Goal Area takes an ecosystem services approach and recognizes the wide range of benefits natural systems provide, such as food, water, and natural regulating processes affecting climate and floods.

Here’s how we scored in each of the Natural Systems Objectives:

Green Infrastructure
Design and maintain a network of green infrastructure features that integrate with the built environment to conserve ecosystem functions and provide associated benefits to human populations.
Invasive Species
Prevent and manage invasive species in order to restore and protect natural ecosystems and the benefits they provide.
Natural Resource Protection
Protect, enhance and restore natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes to confer resilience and support clean water and air, food supply, and public safety.
Outdoor Air Quality
Ensure that outdoor air quality is healthy for all people and protects the welfare of the community.
Water in the Environment
Protect and restore the biological, chemical, and hydrological integrity of water in the natural environment.
Resource Efficient Public Infrastructure
Minimize resource use and demand in local public infrastructure as a means to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water.
Working Lands
Conserve and maintain lands that provide raw materials in ways that allow for sustained harvests and preserves ecosystem integrity.

The Innovation & Process category is an avenue for discovering emerging and leading edge practices that communities are implementing to improve sustainability outcomes. There are 4 sections in this category: Best Practices & Processes; Exemplary Performance; Local Innovation; and Regional Priorities.

The City of Lawrence received 30 additional points on our total score for innovations in this area.

A 4 STAR rating puts Lawrence in a prestigious tier in the STAR certification system. Of the 51 certified communities, only 20 have achieved a 4 STAR rating. Only four have achieved the 5 STAR rating. National leaders in sustainability such as Portland, OR and Austin, TX are in this 4 STAR tier with us.
We undertook the STAR certification not only to assess our progress towards sustainability, but also to set targets for moving forward. This STAR framework provides a nationally-recognized set of best practices for sustainability.

Our STAR rating also provides a roadmap for the city and community to continue to demonstrate leadership in sustainability.

Our goal is to integrate the STAR sustainability best practices into our community plans and programs, including the revision of the comprehensive plan, and the city’s strategic plan.

Want to learn more about STAR?

Invite us to come present to your class, neighborhood association, community group, or church! We are happy to come share the STAR results with community members, and want to learn from you what you think is important for the City to keep working on.

To schedule a presentation, contact Eileen Horn, Sustainability Director, at or 785-330-3121

Want to help shape Lawrence’s sustainable future?

Join one of our citizen advisory boards! Many of them are directly related to our sustainability initiatives. Learn more and sign up here:

Lawrence’s STAR certification process was led by the Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Office, but we couldn’t have done it without the support of many departments and individuals from organizations across the county.

A special thanks to:

  • City of Lawrence
    • City Attorney’s Office
    • City Manager’s Office
    • GIS
    • Parks & Recreation
    • Planning & Development Services
    • Public Works Department
    • Utilities Department
    • Transit
  • Douglas County:
    • County Clerk’s Office
    • Emergency Management
    • GIS
    • Treasurer’s Office
  • Partner Organizations:
    • Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence
    • Douglas County Conservation District
    • Elizabeth Wesley, GIS volunteer
    • Head Start
    • Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department
    • Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority
    • Peaslee Tech
    • Tenants to Homeowners
    • United Way of Douglas County
    • USD 497