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Campus Sustainability

The University administration has set challenging goals for energy use, local foods purchasing, recycling and more. Fortunately, we have a plan (the Illinois Climate Action Plan, or iCAP) that will enable us to achieve those goals. Sustainability principles and practices are embraced by many at Illinois. People from all over this broad campus are taking action to make our campus more sustainable. Our students may be the most active and vocal on campus, but faculty and staff are also engaged in the pursuit. Explore the ways that your colleagues are making a difference. You, too, can take action!

New in 2020: Sustainability Ethics Training!

As part of the annual fall ethics training, the university now offers an interactive sustainability training video. iSEE highly encourages the entire campus community to take a few minutes to learn more >>>

Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP)

The major document for campus sustainability at Illinois, the 2015 iCAP, points to major carbon emission reductions and other sustainability improvements on campus — with a stated goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The 2015 document is an improved, re-envisioned version of the original 2010 iCAP. Read more about the iCAP >>>

Get Funded! Campus as Living Laboratory for Sustainability Research

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) has announced that it will provide seed funding for Illinois faculty members to assist in preparing a proposal for external funding that will include using campus sustainability features and projects in their research related to sustainability.

Specifically, iSEE wants to leverage this seed money to attract external funds that are relevant to objectives from the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP). More than 700 iCAP projects — categorized into energy, water, transportation, building and space, procurement and waste reduction, education, extension, and general research — are online for public assessment. These projects, many based on unique facilities/programs on campus, have great value for developing research and education projects targeting external resources; and at the same time, the realization of many campus sustainability objectives will need research support.

Read more >>>

International Climate Emergency Letter

In Fall 2019, University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen reinforced the Second Nature Climate Commitment for all three U of I campuses (see tab below) by signing a Climate Emergency Letter as one of more than 200 Global Universities and Colleges for the Climate.

The letter was shared with key government officials and the media in advance of the COP 25 meeting in Madrid in December 2019. It reads:

As institutions and networks of higher and further education from across the world, we collectively declare a Climate Emergency in recognition of the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change. 

The young minds that are shaped by our institutions must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change. We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.

We are today committing to collectively step up to the challenge by supporting a three-point plan which includes:

  1. Mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
  2. Committing to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest;
  3. Increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus and community outreach programmes.

We call on governments and other education institutions to join us in declaring a Climate Emergency and back this up with actions that will help create a better future for both people and our planet. 

Read more >>>

Second Nature Resilience Commitment, Climate Commitment

On Feb. 9, 2016, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson signed Second Nature’s Climate Resilience Commitment. This makes Illinois one of the Charter Signatory campuses nationwide for Second Nature’s full Climate Commitment, which combines the Resilience Commitment with the Carbon Commitment the campus signed in 2008.

The Chancellor’s signature formally acknowledges that the effects of climate change are already felt and that universities and colleges must pursue both mitigation and adaptation to combat the unfolding crisis. The U of I campus has committed to evaluating campus vulnerabilities in its landscapes, natural resources, and energy production to a changing climate and to make an action plan that addresses those weaknesses. From that evaluation, a new resilience plan will emerge, giving steps for how campus will react to atmospheric and climate change.

Read about the Champaign County Climate Resilience Task Force, formed in April 2017 >>>

See a full news release on the commitment >>>

Campus Solar Farms

screen-shot-2016-01-14-at-10-37-53-amOn Sept. 19, 2019, campus announced Solar Farm 2.0, a 54-acre solar array that will generate the equivalent electricity use of more than 2,000 average American homes. Read the announcement >>>

Construction began in 2020. Read the update >>>


On Nov. 19, 2015, a 5.87-megawatt solar farm officially opened on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, and it is expected to account for 2 percent campus’ electrical power to be from this renewable source. As part of fulfilling the project’s goal of providing solar data for research and education, a Solar Farm online dashboard has been created. The website provides hourly information on the array’s energy production and impact to campus. Learn more about the solar farm in Facilities & Services’ news release about the farm’s opening >>>

Wind PPA

EDP Renewables

EDP Renewables

In 2016, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entered into a 10-year power purchase agreement for electricity generated at an in-state wind farm.

Illinois is receiving nearly 9 percent of the total wind generation of the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, which in combination with other renewable energy such as the 21.5-acre solar farm, brought the campus’ clean energy portfolio to about 9 percent (33,200 megawatt-hours) of its annual energy consumption.

Read the full news release from Facilities & Services >>>

Check out the Wind PPA factsheet from F&S >>>

Energy Farm Biomass Boiler

The red rectangular biomass boiler tucked in amongst white water delivery pipesIn 2016, iSEE secured funding for a 198 kW biomass boiler to be installed at the Illinois Energy Farm. The boiler, which arrived in December and was officially declared operational with a ribbon cutting ceremony in June 2017, will heat the farm’s main greenhouse by burning part of the farm’s energy crop harvest to heat the water that will be piped through the facility.

In this greenhouse, researchers study energy crops from tropical climates — a climate that is expensive to recreate using propane in the middle of Illinois’ winter months. Read the full news release on the boiler >>>

Two-page information flier

Geothermal Profiling

Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) in 2016, Illinois State Geological Survey researchers Yu-Feng Forrest Lin and Andrew Stumpf installed a test geothermal well on the campus south farms to study the potential of using ground source heat pumps at a large scale to meet campus heating needs and reduce campus fossil fuel reliance. The results of the study will help identify the costs and possible challenges associated with adding a significant amount of geothermal heating systems to campus. Read more about the project >>>

Tying Campus Sustainability to Research, Education — and Funding

iSEE is working with scholars from all disciplines to help promote the Illinois campus as a “living laboratory.”

More than 500 projects and facilities at Illinois are directly tied to campus sustainability, and the iCAP Portal website has a list of them all. In addition, the portal has listings of major external funding programs — and finally, how campus projects can tie in to one or more of those funding opportunities.

iSEE is working on a seed funding program that will help researchers apply for major external funding for research and education tied to these projects and/or facilities, thereby bolstering a campus sustainability initiative at the same time.

Visit the iCAP Portal for more on projects and funding programs >>>

American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge

In November 2015, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson signed the White House Act on Climate Pledge, reiterating Illinois’ commitment to reaching carbon neutrality as soon as possible through energy efficiency projects as well as low-carbon energy generation and purchasing. The pledge also included a committment to interdisciplinary educational opportunities in sustainabilty, both inside and outside the classroom, and to actionable research that provides real-world solutions to society’s grand challenges in sustainability, energy, and the environment. View the pledge >>>


On Feb. 22, 2008, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign became a signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The campus is one of more than 600 institutions of higher learning participating in this endeavor; click to read the University’s official Climate Commitment Pledge.

As concern grows about global warming and the potential effects on health, social, economic, and ecological well-being of our world, the University is a prime place to be at the forefront of battling the negative impacts associated with climate change. The University of Illinois hosts high-caliber research and experts in diverse field across campus and seeks to become a model for not only the State of Illinois, but to become a leader in these efforts nationally and globally. The ultimate goal of the ACUPCC is for campuses to go “climate neutral.” During the first year of this commitment, a greenhouse gas emissions inventory was conducted and submitted to the ACUPCC. Illinois submitted its Climate Action Plan in May 2010 (more about the plan here). This plan set aggressive goals for reaching carbon neutrality. Facilities & Services is making great progress on the operational aspects of the plan, and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) is working to connect educators and researchers to many projects associated with the plan.

Moving forward, Illinois was required to submit updated greenhouse gas emissions inventories (first in 2012) and progress reports (first in 2013) on alternating years. As reports become available, they will be shared with the public, both on the iSEE website as well as on the ACUPCC’s website.

Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact

On Aug. 27, 2010, former University of Illinois President Michael Hogan and former Urbana-Champaign campus Chancellor and President Robert Easter joined former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in signing the second Campus Sustainability Compact as part of the fifth annual Sustainable University Symposium. The University was the first institution to sign on to the five-year compact, committing it to continued energy and environmental improvements.

LED Campus

In 2012, the Illinois made a pledge to become the first major research university to become an LED Campus. The University has committed to make LED technology the major source of lighting. Under this pledge, all interior and exterior wayfinding fixtures will be replaced by 2025, and the majority of all campus lighting will be LED by 2050. Read more about the pledge here

Green Building/LEED Commitment

Illinois is committed to sustainable building design. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Facility Standards and Design Guidelines were recently updated to require all new construction and major renovations over $5 million be certified at a minimum Gold level building under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. All projects less than $5 million are asked to design to Gold standards, but are not required to be certified. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign completed construction on the Business Instructional Facility (BIF) in 2008, which received Platinum level LEED certification. The facility is expected to consume 75% less energy than the average older campus buildings. The University Student Dining and Residence Hall project is expected to achieve a LEED Silver rating, and several other projects are in the planning stages that will pursue LEED accreditation. Illinois is home to 18 LEED buildings:

  • The Business Instructional Facility (BIF) is LEED Platinum
  • Lincoln Hall is LEED Platinum
  • Bousfield Hall is LEED Platinum
  • Natural History Building is LEED Gold (read iSEE’s take on the building)
  • State Farm Center is LEED Gold
  • National Petascale Computing Facility is LEED Gold
  • Wassaja Hall (Ikenberry Commons No. 3 Residence Hall) is LEED Gold
  • Surveying Building Renovation is LEED Gold
  • Chemistry Annex is LEED Gold
  • Chez Veterans Center is LEED Gold
  • Nugent Hall is LEED Silver/Gold (two separate projects: Nugent Phase A is silver; Ikenberry Residence Hall C&D are gold)
  • Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory is LEED Silver
  • CERL Main Building Addition is LEED Silver
  • Ikenberry Dining Hall is LEED Silver
  • Evers Laboratory is LEED Silver
  • The Yeh Student Center (addition to Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory) is LEED Silver
  • Illinois Fire Service Institute is LEED Silver
  • Huff Hall North Addition is LEED Silver

Several more campus building projects are also seeking certification:

  • The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Building is seeking LEED Platinum certification and is striving for net-zero energy design that will enable the building to supply all of its own energy (the largest in the nation). Read iSEE’s take on the ECE Building here. Check out more details at the ECE website here.
  • Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education is seeking LEED Gold
  • Chemistry Annex is seeking LEED Gold
  • Everitt Laboratory (renovation) is seeking LEED Gold
  • Talbot Laboratory Education Lab Upgrade is seeking LEED Gold
  • Surveying Building (renovation) is seeking LEED Gold
  • Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) (addition) is seeking LEED Gold
  • Freer Hall (pool infill) is seeking LEED Gold
  • Turner Hall Classrooms (renovation) is seeking LEED Silver
  • Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) is seeking LEED Silver
  • Noyes Laboratory Classrooms (renovation) is seeking LEED Silver
  • The MCB Center for Undergraduate Advising and Instruction renovation in Burrill Hall is seeking LEED Silver
  • Illinois Street Residential Life Facility (renovation and addition) is seeking LEED Silver
  • The Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center is seeking LEED Silver
Natural Landscapes

There are many ways to make our landscapes more sustainable. Using native plants is one way. Reducing the amounts of fertilizers and pesticides used on plantings, and mowing less often are others. You can see these sustainable methods in practice on campus. And there are several places around campus that you can visit to enjoy the beauty of native plantings, such as the Pollinatarium, the prairie plantings at the Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences Building, the Red Oak Rain Garden, and the plantings at the Business Instructional Facility. And don’t forget to check out Allerton Park.

THE ILLINOIS PATH: Citing campus sustainability and enhancement, the Illinois Chancellor asked a graduate class to provide a strategic assessment and implementation plan for a managed natural landscape on the Military Axis, a site on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a manner consistent with the University’s mission and Master Plan. Read the Illinois Path Report. View the comments on The Illinois Path report.

Big Ten & Friends

The University of Illinois is a proud participant in the Big Ten & Friends Environmental Stewardship Group.

According to the website hosted by Michigan State, “Not only have the institutions collaborated with each other, they have brought in external speakers to stimulate discussion on how institutions can constantly improve environmental stewardship. External partners have included Dr. Paul Rowland, Executive Director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE); Jean Lupinacci, Chief of the Energy Star Commercial and Industrial Branch of the EPA Energy Star Program; Nick Travis, Director of Project Development and Investment Services; Rob McKenna, Senior Consultant of Energy Strategies, LLC; and Kevin Lyons, Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management at Rutgers University.”