The STAR Community Rating 4-STAR seal
The City of Iowa City was awarded a 4-STAR Community Rating for sustainability excellence today, Wednesday, March 9, by being formally certified in the STAR Community Rating SystemTM (STAR). The city’s approved final score is 484.8, which qualifies Iowa City as a Certified 4-STAR Community and the highest-scored city in the State of Iowa. Iowa City is the fifth community in Iowa and 47th nationwide to achieve certification from STAR Communities, a nonprofit organization that certifies sustainable communities. Other STAR-Certified Iowa communities include Charles City, Dubuque, Davenport and Des Moines.

The community is invited to learn more about the STAR program and Iowa City’s rating at a public presentation from 7 to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 28 at the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A. City of Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations and Housing Program Assistant Carri Fox-Rummelhart, who led the Iowa City effort, will discuss the STAR program and answer questions.

STAR is the nation’s leading framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing social, economic and environmental performance measures. STAR helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. For instance, communities get credit for reductions in energy use or increased transportation access. STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a third-party review ensures accountability.

“The STAR program provides City staff with a guide to measure our programs and policies and how they impact our progress in reaching our sustainability goals,” City Manager Tom Markus said. “We are honored to be recognized nationally for our achievements and look forward to utilizing the information gathered through the STAR program to continue to improve and enhance our sustainability efforts. I am especially proud of Brenda and Carri for their hard work in helping the City earn this recognition.”

In March 2015, Iowa City joined STAR Communities’ Leadership Program, which provides extensive staff support and services to a cohort of communities as they collect data, measure progress and work towards STAR certification. This effort enabled the city to gather a baseline assessment of local sustainability progress, as well as compare best practices with other communities nationwide.

Communities pursuing STAR certification accumulate points for their achievements that are used to determine their rating. There are three STAR certification levels: 3-STAR Community (200-399 points), 4-STAR Community (400-599 points), and 5-STAR (600+ points).  The city received its final score of 484.8 points and the Certified 4-STAR Community Rating for national excellence in sustainability. Some highlights from the city’s application include:

  • Built environment: Iowa City’s citizens use a variety of transportation options for their commutes to work—56.3 percent drive alone; 29.9 percent bike, walk or use transit; and 20.3 percent bike or walk. Those percentages go well beyond the STAR thresholds—a maximum of 60 percent drive alone; minimum of 25 percent bike, walk or use transit; and minimum of 5 percent bike or walk.
  • Economy and jobs: The economy of Iowa City is seeing growth; 169 new businesses were created between 2011-2013, local sales were up 29.7 percent from 2002-2012, and employment was up 1.4 percent from 2011-2013.
  • Education, arts and community: Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature was reflected in the City’s strong performance in the EAC goal area, receiving 65.3 out of 70 points. The city demonstrated that 100 percent of residents live within one mile of a community venue, 59 percent of residents attend a performing arts event annually, and creative industry makes up 5 percent of all businesses.
  • Natural systems: More than 90 percent of Iowa City’s population is within ½ mile of green infrastructure, such as parks or greenways.

Information and data was gathered for the certification application throughout 2015 with the assistance of dozens of city staff members, community partners, state agencies, local and regional governments, and private sector employers. Thank you to all community partners that assisted the City in this effort, especially the Iowa City Area Development Group, Iowa City Community School District, Johnson County and University of Iowa.

“Sustainable cities provide a healthy environment, support a strong economy, and continually improve the well-being of the community,” said Hilari Varnadore, Executive Director of STAR Communities. “The data and information that Iowa City gathered through the process will help them continue to make improvements that benefit the whole community.” Hundreds of communities are actively using the STAR Community Rating System around the country, with more than 70 engaged in the certification process.

Iowa City’s full rating profile is available at To learn more about the STAR Community Rating System, visit the STAR Communities website at To learn more about sustainability in Iowa City, visit

Date of publication

Wednesday, March 09, 2016