Use of Sustainability Tools

Use of Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities (“STAR”)

Given the county’s commitment to sustainability principles in the Monroe County Climate Action Plan (MCAP), Comprehensive Plan, and other policies and procedures, the Team included the STAR third-party rating system in this process.

sustainability-3Overview of STAR

STAR is the first national sustainability certification program that assists communities and recognizes them for their sustainability efforts.  With STAR, local leaders have a framework to assess their community’s sustainability, set goals for improvement, and measure progress along the way.

The rating system includes seven goals and related objectives. To set priorities for planning efforts, Monroe County  chose to evaluate all seven STAR goal areas and focus on four: Climate & Energy, Built Environment, Natural Systems, and Health & Safety.  These are also focus areas for GreenKeys!.

Given the nature and overlap of the remaining goal areas—Equity & Empowerment, Economy & Jobs, and Education, Arts & Community—they have been consolidated into one focus area for GreenKeys!.  In addition to the STAR goal areas, the GreenKeys! team added Government Operations as a focus area for evaluation and prioritization

Table 5. STAR Community Rating System Goal Area Matrix

Communities use the rating system to conduct a preliminary assessment, with scores ranging from 0 to the maximum 720 points.  Reporting STAR communities, like Monroe County, undergo a more substantive assessment that STAR technical staff use for determining STAR certification level.

sustainability-8Monroe County’s STAR Community Assessment

Over nine months, Monroe County studied county initiatives in each of the seven goal areas.  An eighth bonus goal area (Innovation & Process) was also evaluated to determine if the county could score additional points.  All of the initiatives were used in the formal STAR certification process.

[STAR Crosswalk Excel spreadsheet illustrating Monroe County’s assessment]

Certification and Scoring

After submitting the necessary information and answering all questions from STAR staff,  Monroe County was certified a 3-STAR Community in June 2015, receiving a final score of 261.3.

Table 6. STAR Assessment Points Breakdown

The point breakdowns for the four goal areas of greatest interest to the county (Climate & Energy, Built Environment, Natural Systems, and Health & Safety) are shown here. These areas correspond to the highest priority areas for GreenKeys!  The three highest-scoring subgoals within each goal area are highlighted.

[STAR Crosswalk Excel spreadsheet illustrating Monroe County’s assessment]

sustainability-4-copyHow Monroe County’s Score Compares to Other Certified STAR Communities

Fifty communities across the U.S. have completed the STAR evaluation process with another 57 currently undergoing the process.  In Florida, 13 communities are involved in STAR:

  • Monroe Count has the most recent certification.
  • Three other communities have been certified. Broward County achieved a 4-STAR rating. Palm Bay and Lee County achieved 3-STAR ratings.
  • Five communities are “reporting,” meaning that they are undergoing the certification process. These are Sarasota County and the cities of West Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, Marathon, and Pinecrest.
  • Four communities are “participating,” meaning that they have completed the assessment but not the verification/certification process. These are Islamorada, Bonita Springs, Coral Gables, and Hollywood.

Table 7. National and Statewide STAR Community Comparison

sustainability-5-copyFuture Use of STAR and Key Areas for Improvement

In addition to guiding recommendations for GreenKeys!, the STAR framework can also be used in future planning and updates.  The STAR goal areas overlap significantly with  comprehensive plan principles created by the American Planning Association (APA) as part of its Sustaining Places initiative.  These include: 1) Livable Built Environment, 2) Harmony with Nature, 3) Resilient Economy, 4) Interwoven Equity, 5) Healthy Community, and 6) Responsible Regionalism.

sustainability-1-copyIntegration with Plan Performance Tracking

Under the STAR framework, each of the 44 objectives includes two types of evaluation measures:

  • Community Level Outcomes. These are quantitative, measurable, condition-level indicators that show community progress on a STAR Community Rating System Objective.  Examples: reductions in energy use or increased transportation access.
  • Local Actions. These are qualitative government actions to move toward the Community Level Outcomes.  Examples: land development regulations, ordinances, plans, assessments, and education and outreach activities.


USE OF SUSTAINABILITY TOOLS