The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus has been noted locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally for its green efforts. Here are some of the more recent awards this campus has received:


2018 Second Nature Climate Leadership Award

In January 2019, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was named the ninth winner of the Climate Leadership Award.

Read the full U of I News Bureau article >>>

Each year, Boston nonprofit Second Nature and the U.S. Green Building Council select one four-year and one two-year institution for recognition. The U of I and Delta College were honored for 2018.

Illinois was specifically cited for its depth and breadth of sustainability, energy, and environmental research, measures such as the Solar Farm and renewable energy purchasing, its comprehensive energy savings efforts, educational offerings in sustainability from across the campus curriculum, and behavior-change and student activities that engage the campus community in sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Read the Second Nature news release >>>

STARS Gold Level — Recertified 2019

STARS goldIn 2019 — for the fourth time in a row — the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned Gold Level honors in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), the nation’s most comprehensive sustainability rating system.

The Gold rating was made possible by outstanding energy and resource savings work performed by Facilities & Services, as well as inclusion of sustainability across most campus academic units in degree programs and more than 500 courses. But the campus in particular got a shout-out for some significant innovations, including the new student-written professionally published Q Magazine, the Field to Flame project using a biomass boiler to heat the main greenhouse at the Illinois Energy Farm, and the Student Sustainability Committee-funded Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre project.

STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance, and 942 institutions have used the tool. As of its certification March 7, 2019, Illinois was one of 108 schools to achieve Gold in version 2.1 of the STARS tool — and it had the top score among the four Big Ten Conference schools certifed Gold.

Illinois was also certified STARS Gold in 2017, 2015, and 2013.

To check out the 2017 reporting on AASHE’s website, click here. 2017 report here. 2015 report here. 2013 report here.

2021 International Freezer Challenge Champions

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was honored with the 2020 International Laboratory Freezer Challenge “winning streak” award for repeating as the top school in the Academia category for the fourth straight year. In 2021, 34 labs combined to save an estimated 385,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or the equivalent of 35 typical U.S. homes — a new campus record! The reductions were achieved by using best practices for cold storage management, including: regularly managing and organizing samples to avoid overcrowding; defrosting units to prevent ice buildup; washing and replacing filters; checking seals to prevent conditioned air loss; vacuuming condenser coils and removing debris that blocks heat exchange; and performing regular equipment checks and scheduling preventive maintenance. “I’m very proud to see our university researchers work together with lab managers and facilities staff to win this prestigious award for the fourth time in a row,” iSEE Interim Director Madhu Khanna said. “iSEE promotes both research on sustainability and its practice on campus, so it is great to see our science community participate in meaningful, real-world efforts to mitigate climate change. It helps bolster our position as a world leader in sustainability.”

Read the full Facilities & Services news release on the 2021 win >>>

The 2020 news release >>>

The 2019 news release >>>

The 2018 news release >>>

Bicycle Friendly University

In October 2020, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned its second Silver designation as a Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) from the League of American Bicyclists.

The U of I, which maintained bronze-level BFU certification since 2011 and moved up to silver for the first time in 2019, is one of 208 colleges and universities recognized nationally, is now one of 94 with Silver level or better (Silver, Gold, Platinum) BFU status, for taking significant steps to address health and environmental challenges by creating safer, more welcoming and accessible areas for people who bike.

The BFU program evaluates applicants’ efforts to promote bicycling in five primary areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning. Some of the university’s recent initiatives that contributed to receiving silver certification were the publication of the 2014 Campus Bike Plan, bike path and bike lane improvement projects, bicycle rack parking upgrades and additions (11,635 bike parking spaces in 2019), the launch of the Bike at Illinois website, the start of VeoRide bike sharing availability in 2018, and the improvement of bicycle route network through the MCORE project. 

The Facilities & Services Transportation Demand Management Department championed for this award. More on the F&S website >>>

Tree Campus USA®

In 2021, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned its sixth straight designation as an official Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forestry.

To care for its more than 20,000 trees, campus maintains a tree advisory committee and a campus tree-care plan.

The Arbor Day Foundation has been awarding the U of I a Tree Campus USA designation since 2016.


Sierra Club Cool Schools

Illinois was No. 52 — and third in the Big Ten Conference — out of 325 four-year higher education institutions in Sierra Club Magazine’s “Cool Schools” contest in 2021. Campuses participate by completing an extensive questionnaire (61 questions and a supplemental question about fossil fuel investments) about sustainability practices, which is then evaluated by a team of experts at the Sierra Club. The U of I campus was No. 48 out of 312 schools in 2020, No. 20 (and tops in the Big Ten) out of 282 schools in 2019, placed top 100 in 2018, 56th in 2017, 33rd in 2016, and 38th in 2015. The competition is heating up!

Read more.


Bee Campus USA

As of 2021, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was recognized as a Bee Campus USA, one of 122 campuses nationwide designated as pollinator-friendly.

The U of I was recognized for the first time in October 2018 as the 53rd Bee Campus USA — and the first in the Big Ten Conference. Read the Facilities & Services news release >>>

Our campus has met and — will continue to strive to meet — all of the requirements: convening a Bee Campus USA Committee of faculty, staff, and students (read the iSEE story on the student who started the movement on campus >>>); fostering community engagement through awareness events; sponsoring on-campus service learning projects; offering pollinator-focused courses; educating campus and the broader community through communications and a web presence (view the U of I’s Bee Campus website and Facebook page); developing a campus habitat plan; and continuing to pursue and update its Bee Campus USA status annually.

View a full list of Bee Campus USA members >>>

Previous Recognitions

Second Nature ‘Marks of Distinction’

In November 2019, environmental nonprofit Second Nature recognized the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with “Marks of Distinction” for advancing climate action in higher education and 1) being “On Track” for 25% carbon reduction; 2) participating in the Billion Dollar Green Challenge; and 3) participation in Second Nature’s Carbon Credit and Purchasing Program, which helps the University sell credit for the carbon it doesn’t emit to an other entity — and reinvest those earnings in further carbon reductions.

In April 2018, Second Nature gave the Illinois campus Marks of Distinction for two financial planning-related efforts for campus sustainability: 1) a commitment to a revolving fund worth at least $1 million to support campus sustainability projects; and 2) participation in C2P2.

AASHE Sustainable Campus Index 2018

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has maintained its gold standing in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. Visit the Index here >>>

In 2017, the AASHE Index recognized Illinois for an innovative, high-impact initiative. Fresh Press is a University of Illinois initiative that is looking to fundamentally change the commercial paper product industry to one that is more sustainable. Agricultural residue from the student farm is used to create paper that is sold on-campus, with students involved in growing, harvesting and manufacturing the paper products. In 2016, the first shares of artisan and writing paper were completed, and 75 percent of these shares were sold to Illinois faculty, staff, and students. Sales from paper products continue to be reinvested to make the Fresh Press business model a sustainable one. The Illinois Solar Farm was also featured in a full-page photo in the 2017 Index.

In the 2016 Index, Illinois was a No. 2 in the Building category and No. 3 in the Water category

Illinois was also honored in the 2015 Index, which put the campus No. 1 among all schools in the buildings category and No. 2 for water, among the Top 10 sustainable campuses overall, and with perfect scores on campus engagement and coordination and planning highlights.


Princeton Review’s 2016 Top 50 Green Colleges


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus sustainability initiatives have been named as some of the best in the country, as highlighted in by the No. 44 ranking (and second in the Big Ten Conference) in the release of The Princeton Review’s 2016 Top 50 Green Colleges (more info at TPR’s website).

In 2015, Illinois was No. 24 on the list, and the previous two years the U of I made the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll (top 20), one of a handful of institutions to earn a perfect score of 99 and the only Big Ten school to make this list. TPR evaluates more than 800 schools each year.


2015 Campus Conservation Nationals Top 20%

Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN) is the largest electricity and water reduction competition for colleges and universities in the world. In the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s second year of participation in the competition, dorm residents reduced their energy consumption by 7.9%, earning the Illinois a spot in the top 20% of energy savers in the 2015 competition. The Illinois campus was also the winner of the Big TenUnplugged challenge held between six Big Ten schools participating in CCN2015.

Read more results.

No. 1 in Division, Kill the Cup University Challenge

Copy of KillTheCup-LogoFor five weeks in October and November 2015, Illinois students competed against 15 other campuses nationwide to reduce landfill waste by opting for reusable mugs instead of paper and Styrofoam cups at local coffee shops. The Urbana-Champaign campus took first prize in its division for Social Impact — the number of student participating in the campaign — and ranked 4th overall in the waste reduction category with an average reusable rate of 14.7%. As a reward, campus received a $500 grant for future campus sustainability projects.

Small Steps Big Wins Earth Week Challenge

small steps certThe University of Illinois finished sixth among universities in the national Small Steps Big Wins Earth Week Challenge in April 2015. Seventy Illinois students participated, performing 691 “sustainable actions” that led to a reduction of 1,513 pounds of carbon dioxide and a cost savings of $502. iSEE congratulates the participants for taking small steps to make a big difference on our campus!

Mother Nature Network Sustainable Schools

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was featured as one of 17 campuses nationwide “doing some impressive things” for the environment on Mother Nature Network’s website. They were most excited about our LEED-certified buildings, the Spring 2015 solar farm project, and iSEE’s SWATeams.

Read more.

College Raptor Greenest College Campuses in the U.S.

green_campuses_top25 (1)In April 2015, Illinois made the College Raptor list as one of the 25 greenest college campuses in the United States. The rating was based on the College Sustainability Report Card, the Sierra Club Cool Schools 2014, the EPA Top 30 College and Universities, and the AASHE Stars ratings.

Check out the campus page here; the full list is here.

Online Schools Center Top 50 Green Schools

Illinois is No. 13 on the list at, which uses several factors in determining its rankings: the Princeton Review Green Honor Roll,, Sierra Club, U.S. News’ Eco-friendly Campuses, AASHE gold or silver rating, and current or pending green initiatives.

Read more.

Governor’s 2013 Sustainability Award

Illinois was one of 27 organizations — and one of four educational institutions (Jefferson Middle School, Lewis & Clark Comm. College, and the U of I’s Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses) — awarded the Governor’s Sustainability Award on Oct. 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.

2013 Gold Level Compact School

Gov. Pat Quinn and the Green Governments Coordinating Council have recognized the campus 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 campus is a leader in higher education sustainability. Our campus began participating in the program at a Gold Level in 2010 and has retained this level through continued progress toward campus sustainability goals and initiatives.