Campus Sustainability Menu
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.
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.
STARS Gold Level — Recertified 2019
In 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.
2019 International Freezer Challenge Champions
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign won first place in the 2019 International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, repeating as the top school in the Academia category for the second straight year. In 2019, 70 labs from 15 buildings participated in the program, including the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI). The total energy usage in these spaces decreased by an estimated 438 kWh/day or a combined annual total equivalent of 13.5 homes energy for 1 year. The reductions were achieved due to by researchers across campus who used best practices for cold storage management, including properly maintaining freezers and refrigerators, discarding old samples, and retiring unneeded units. The U of I will receive the award at the 2019 International Institute for Sustainable Labs conference.
Bicycle Friendly University
In October 2019, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned its first Silver designation as a Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) from the League of American Bicyclists.
The U of I, which has maintained bronze-level BFU certification since 2011 and 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 March 2020, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned its fifth 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 also awarded the U of I the Tree Campus USA designation in 2016-19.
Sierra Club Cool Schools 2019
Illinois was No. 20 out of 282 four-year higher education institutions in Sierra Club Magazine’s “Cool Schools” contest in 2019. The U of I ranked tops in the Big Ten Conference (Michigan State University had the second-best ranking at 66th). Campuses participate by completing an extensive questionnaire about their sustainability practices, which is then evaluated by a team of experts at the Sierra Club. Campus placed top 100 in 2018, 56th in 2017, 33rd in 2016, and 38th in 2015. The competition is heating up!
Bee Campus USA
In October 2018, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was recognized as the 53rd Bee Campus USA, and the first in the Big Ten Conference. Read the Facilities & Services news release >>>
The U of I met and — will continue to strive to meet — all of the requirements as a Bee Campus affiliate, including:
- 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.
- 2019 Second Nature ‘Marks of Distinction’
- AASHE Sustainable Campus Index 2018
- Princeton Review’s 2016 Top 50 Green Colleges
- 2015 Campus Conservation Nationals Top 20%
- No. 1 in Division, Kill the Cup University Challenge
- Small Steps Big Wins Earth Week Challenge
- Mother Nature Network Sustainable Schools
- College Raptor Greenest College Campuses in the U.S.
- Online Schools Center Top 50 Green Schools
- Governor’s 2013 Sustainability Award
- 2013 Gold Level Compact School
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.
No. 1 in Division, Kill the Cup University Challenge
For 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
The 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.
College Raptor Greenest College Campuses in the U.S.
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.
Online Schools Center Top 50 Green Schools
Illinois is No. 13 on the list at onlineschoolscenter.com, which uses several factors in determining its rankings: the Princeton Review Green Honor Roll, EPA.gov, Sierra Club, U.S. News’ Eco-friendly Campuses, AASHE gold or silver rating, and current or pending green initiatives.
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.