sustainability - news

Campus to drive future greenhouse gas emissions reductions with 2014 sale of carbon credits to Chevrolet

Published Date:June 19, 2014


URBANA (May 16, 2014) — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has dramatically reduced its carbon dioxide emissions in the past several years, is selling an estimated 150,000 metric tons of certified carbon credits to Chevrolet, which is retiring them on behalf of the environment.

“Our campus has taken a significant first step in reducing its carbon footprint,” said Professor Evan DeLucia, Director of the University’s new Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE). “Chevrolet has rewarded these positive steps by joining with campus leadership to provide more than $1 million to help campus achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

The campus committed to the following goals in the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) created in 2010: reduce building-related greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2015; 30 percent by 2020; 40 percent by 2025; and 100 percent by 2050. Professor Ben McCall, iSEE’s Associate Director for Campus Sustainability, said the campus is on track to easily surpass its 2015 goal. 

“Our Facilities & Services group has done truly amazing work in recent years to lower our emissions,” McCall said.
Facilities & Services (F&S) has retrocommissioned more than 50 campus buildings to improve heating and air conditioning systems and utilized Energy Performance Contracting. As a result of this and other energy efficiency activities, the campus’ equivalent carbon dioxide emissions — a calculation of all greenhouse gases (such as methane and sulfur) converted to equivalent CO2 — decreased annually from 2008 to 2012.

“Turning a university’s energy-efficiency progress into carbon credits enables them to reinvest in even more clean energy technologies,” said David Tulauskas, General Motors’ sustainability director. “Chevrolet is supporting the ingenious ways people are reducing carbon and spreading the word about the benefits of a clean energy future.”

Although actual figures will not be determined until campus carbon credits are verified by an independent agency and certified by the Verified Carbon Standard, the campus expects to transfer approximately 150,000 tons of reduction from fiscal years 2012-14 to the Chevrolet initiative.  Between the funding from Chevrolet and matching funds provided by campus leadership, the final amount allocated for new reductions in carbon emissions is likely to exceed $1 million.

“The funds will be held at the campus level, and iSEE will work with F&S to allocate them,” McCall said. “They will be earmarked to enable additional projects that will further drive down carbon emissions on campus. We want to go the next mile in our iCAP goals.”

Chevrolet helped develop the methodology by which campuses can earn money for certain upgrades that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is part of the brand’s Carbon Reduction Initiative to purchase up to 8 million tons of carbon credits from a variety of clean energy projects and technologies in communities across the United States. The nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) works on behalf of Chevrolet to manage the transactions. 

The agreement with Illinois is Chevrolet’s largest college project investment to date and its first with a Big Ten university.  BEF is retiring the carbon credits for the benefit of the environment, meaning they will not be used to offset emissions related to specific Chevrolet operations or products — or those at any other site.

“As a campus, we need to do our part to eliminate emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is having catastrophic global effects,” McCall said. “But our reach can be so much larger than just our own emissions. We want to be an example to the world and teach our students how to go about emission reductions so other campuses, companies, governments and more can implement these sorts of changes the world over.”
The University’s work toward greenhouse gas reduction is one of several steps toward iCAP goals that have gained attention nationwide. For the second year in a row, the campus was one of 22 institutions of higher learning — and the only one in the Big Ten — to earn a perfect score on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll.

“Universities exist to serve the public good and set America's next generation up for success, and Illinois’ leadership in environmental stewardship shows that it is committed to its ultimate purpose. From setting a strong carbon neutrality goal to selling its carbon credits for retirement, the U of I community should be proud of all that they have accomplished and continue to lead the charge in building a cleaner, safer environment by investing in clean energy,” said Anastasia Schemkes, a Campaign Representative at the Sierra Student Coalition, the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, established in December 2013, has a three-fold purpose: to facilitate “actionable research,” an interdisciplinary approach to solving real-world problems involving the Earth’s sustainability, energy and environment; to lead the campus toward a more sustainable future, including meeting the iCAP goals, as it becomes a model for other communities to emulate; and to help U of I students become local and industry leaders in the areas of sustainability, energy and environment.

“Reaching our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 is going to be a significant challenge that will require an ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” McCall said.  “Some of the actions we will need to take will be costly, and the Chevrolet funding will help us keep on track toward our extremely demanding goals.

“We hope the good news from our campus will be met with enthusiasm throughout the community, as we need everyone to become more active in saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint here and ultimately the world over.”

For starters, iSEE offers tips for “A Greener Campus in 10 Easy Steps

Contact Tony Mancuso, iSEE Communications and Public Affairs Coordinator

Published Date: June 19, 2014

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign makes the Honor Roll!

Published Date:April 17, 2014

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus sustainability initiatives have been named as some of the best in the country, as highlighted in the release today of The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges(a free, downloadable resource produced in partnership with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, and available at TPR’s website).

This year we made the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll for the second year in a row, one of only 22 colleges to earn a perfect score of 99 and the only Big Ten school to make this list.

Sustainability is important for higher education institutions because it touches all aspects of learning and campus life: preparing students for 21st century careers; advancing cutting edge research in the new clean economy; providing healthy, safe and efficient living, learning and dining environments, and helping students develop leadership skills around issues that are most important to them.

A few highlights of the U of I’s sustainability efforts:

  • Among the campus initiatives and highlights listed in the Guide to Green Colleges:
    • Our institution is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, which means we share USGBC’s mission to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

    • Our institution is home to a USGBC Students group – students and faculty working together to integrate sustainability themes into coursework and advocate for sustainable university practices and policies. USGBC Students are the nation’s young leaders in sustainability and green building on college campuses across the nation.

    • Our institution is a STARS (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) rated institution, developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

    • Our institution is a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a high-visibility effort to address global climate disruption through institutional commitments to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations and to promote research and educational efforts to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

      Among the Green Facts in the guide:

      • 100 % of new campus construction is LEED-certified.

      • The U of I also has a public greenhouse gas inventory plan.

      • 27 % of the campus food budget is spent on local or organic food.

      • Our institution offers sustainability-focused and environmental studies degrees.

  • The campus’ new Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) has been created to facilitate cross-disciplinary research into solving some of the world’s greatest environmental issues; to lead faculty, students and staff in becoming more eco-minded and making environmentally friendly decisions and campus and in future endeavors; and to prepare graduates to become leaders in fields involving sustainability, energy and environment.

  • The university is committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, and according to the guide has retrofitted several campus buildings, “resulting in an average energy reduction of 27 percent per building.”

Published Date: April 17, 2014

Illinois Honored for Sustainability Achievements

Published Date:October 30, 2013

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) was one of 27 organizations awarded the Governor’s Sustainability Award on October 29, 2013.  The Governor’s Award recognizes organizations for their demonstrated commitment to environmental excellence through outstanding and innovative sustainability practices.  Winners are selected through a rigorous process of review and examination.  Illinois was recognized for its efforts in the reduction of energy and water consumption as well as for waste diversion.

Published Date: October 30, 2013

Illinois named to Princeton Review Green Honor Roll!

Published Date:August 21, 2013


For the first time, Illinois has earned a place on the 2014 Princeton Review Green Honor Roll, achieving the highest possible score.The Princeton Review tallies information from over 800 schools on sustainability practices and Illinois is one of only 22 to be named to the Honor Roll!
Criteria for the Green College Honor Roll broadly covers three areas: 1) whether the school’s students have a campus quality of life that is healthy and sustainable, 2) how well the school is preparing its students for employment and citizenship in a world defined by environmental challenges, and 3) the school's overall commitment to environmental issues. The survey includes questions about the school's energy use, recycling, food, buildings, and transportation as well as academic offerings and sustainability-related action plans.

To learn about Sustainability on our campus, please visit the iCAP Portal

Published Date: August 21, 2013

Illinois Earns Gold for Green

Published Date:June 7, 2012

Governor Quinn and the Green Governments Coordinating Council have recognized the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Gold Level Compact School within the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact program. This designation serves as a signal to our community and peer institutions that the University is a leader in higher education sustainability.

“We have made sustainability a top priority on our campus, in our facilities, in our research and teaching, and in our use of all of our resources and our engagement with the community around us and with the state. It is an honor to get recognition for our efforts.” – Chancellor Phyllis Wise

The University began participating in the Compact program at a Gold Level in 2010 and has retained this level of participation through continued progress towards campus sustainability goals and initiatives.


Published Date: June 7, 2012