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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


Published Date:February 27, 2014

Congratulations to the University of Illinois campus community, which collected nearly 7 tons of e-waste in its E-cyclemania event March 18 as part of Recyclemania, the national collegiate competition to minimize waste and reduce the amount of material going into landfills.

The U of I E-cyclemania efforts brought in 13,870 pounds of materials — virtually “anything with a plug” — or about 0.24 pounds per person on campus. The materials filled two box trucks.

There were three main collection sites: Allen Hall, Ikenberry Commons and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, but recyclers were able to make drop-offs at numerous participating campus buildings as well. The use of bike trailers by volunteers helped reduce traffic issues as the electronics were hauled from dropoff points to the main collection sites without causing traffic issues on campus.

In the first Recyclemania event, a basketball Game Day on Feb. 26, the U of I finished sixth in per capita waste generation and 19th in diversion rate at 31.5 percent.

Published Date: February 27, 2014

Sustainable Futures: Global Studies Summer Workshop for High School Students

Published Date:February 27, 2014

June 15, 2014 – June 20, 2014

Enrollment is open for the Sustainable Futures summer workshop high school students. This program at the University of Illinois offers an  interdisciplinary foundation in environmental sustainability. Students live on campus, interact with faculty and experts, engage in research, visit field sites, and make team presentations. Students earn one college credit from Illinois. Taught by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, School of Earth, Society and the Environment. Organized by the Center for Global Studies. Applications due: April 30, 2014. 


Published Date: February 27, 2014

Scholarship of Sustainability Series

Published Date:February 13, 2014

When: Every Thursday through April 17 – Beginning on February 13
Time: 4-5:30pm
Where: 149 National Soybean Research Center

February 27 Session:
Fragmentation and Cultural Flaws. According to environmental historians a major driver of our uses and misuses of nature has been the tendency to fragment landscapes and treat nature's parts as market commodities. We'll look at the issue of fragmentation–physically, legally, and intellectually–and its resulting problems while also considering the limits on our knowledge and its implications. Speaker: Mary Kay Solecki, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission field representative for east central Illinois.


Published Date: February 13, 2014

Energy Farm tour reveals bioenergy crops' sustainability

Published Date:October 30, 2013

On a crisp fall day, students, faculty and staff learned about ongoing research projects at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) Energy Farm as they walked among towering plots of prairie grasses and woody plants.

The farm tour was part of the Fourth Annual Sustainability Week, a weeklong celebration of the ongoing efforts by the University of Illinois to create a more sustainable campus and community.

Farm tours are a “fantastic way” for students to learn about the diversified research at Illinois, said Jenny Kokini, who helps run the Center for a Sustainable Environment that hosted the event.

“The students who toured the Sustainable Student Farm and EBI Energy Farm get to see firsthand what it takes to conduct bioenergy research that will help improve how we produce food and fuel sustainably,” she said. “Illinois faculty and staff are out here working and collecting vital data on rainy spring days, scorching summer days, and even cool, windy fall days like this one.”

Native bioenergy grasses could provide sustainable fuel while benefiting Illinois conservation by creating a habitat for animals and preventing soil erosion, said DoKyoung (D.K.) Lee, an Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences and EBI faculty member, who began the tour.

“We have a lot of different landscapes in Illinois, including hilly, flat, and wet areas,” Lee said. “Not all ground is perfect for row crop production. We would like to use this marginal land to produce biomass.”

Lee said native grasses like prairie cordgrass are good for cold, wet and salty areas whereas big bluestem is good for dry, hilly areas.

Next, participants saw black locust trees, the most productive woody plant out of 21 species in a study by Gary Kling, an Associate Professor of Crop Sciences and EBI faculty member. Kling discussed how woody plants could be an alternative feedstock that can live for decades, provide a habitat for many animals, and be stored for long periods of time after harvest.

Tom Voigt, an Associate Professor of Crop Sciences and EBI faculty member, showed participants a plot of Miscanthus, the highest-yielding grass for temperate areas like Illinois. This perennial bioenergy grass doesn’t use traditional fertilizers and produces 8-9 tons of dry matter per acre, whereas fertilized corn only produces about 1-2 tons of dry matter per acre and is often needed to replenish the organic matter in the soil.

EBI postdoctoral associates Ilsa Kantola and Candice Smith discussed how long term bioenergy grass crop and traditional row crop production will impact Illinois soil, particularly carbon and nitrogen storage. Smith has found that perennial bioenergy plants leach very little nitrogen, which is important to preventing nitrogen from traveling to the Gulf of Mexico and creating large, hypoxic “dead zones” that are virtually void of life.

“The perennial crops are really great for holding onto their nitrogen and not allowing it to leach out,” Smith said. “They also do really well in not omitting nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

Participants also toured a 20-foot research greenhouse and the university’s 2007 Solar Decathlon “Element House,” which will be renovated and placed at a permanent site on the farm.


The Center for a Sustainable Environment provides national and international leadership on sustainability by providing support for interdisciplinary education, research, and engagement in addition to developing and implementing strategies for a sustainable campus environment.

The Energy Biosciences Institute, supported by a $500-million, 10-year award from energy company BP, pursues solutions to the global energy challenge through collaborative research between the University of California, Berkeley; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The EBI’s efforts at Illinois take place at theInstitute for Genomic Biology (IGB), an interdisciplinary research institute.


News writer: Claire Sturgeon,,

Published Date: October 30, 2013

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