Monthly archives: July, 2015

Grounds Maintenance: Beyond Campus Manicure

Early this summer, I had layman’s views of what Grounds Management does in a university. With the help of my mentor, Carly Rizor (UIC’s Grounds Superintendent, and only woman around, with her “let’s do this” attitude, that makes people love her and work hard) I learned much. Grounds is the gritty, blue-collar work that no one seems to notice until a snowfall hits it hard, or when the turf at the soccer field needs repair, when 2,000 kids trample it on a summer’s day. Carly was very attentive, showing me much of the day-to-day work, and management involved, and how well you need to work with others. As she said so many times over the summer, “the university is like a pair of cargo pants . . . many pockets, different funding coming in. We need to work with all departments.”.

Over the summer, I sought to relate my projects at UIC Grounds with sustainability. When I think of sustainability, I think of a process that is self-sufficient, and long-lasting, without extra input. Throughout June, I walked the entire 240-acre campus, repeatedly looking for any little patch of green. The purpose?-classification . . so Grounds could calculate how much manpower was required to maintain the premises, and easily allocate staff. July featured a number of small projects, including talking with third parties to improve the efficiency, and value of the campus. One project was with Bartlett, which is doing a very impressive tree assessment. I helped document their project, and got first hand knowledge of how they’re dealing with pest control on campus ash trees. A second project included the expansion of the BigBelly sun powered trash compactors, which is a great idea. It saves labor, and de-clutters the space the hundreds of concrete trash cans currently occupy. Furthermore, each trash compactor comes with a recycling bin! Another interesting project was site searching for expansion of the Monarch and Heritage Gardens.

Grounds helps UIC not just by making it aesthetically pleasing, but ensuring resources are properly allocated to operate efficiently. That’s sustainability to its core.

By: Danielle Silva

Check out these UIC Campus maps to get an idea of how much area Grounds covers: West Side Campus Map East Side Campus Map

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen on Sustainability

On his second day as University of Illinois president May 19, Timothy Killeen and the chancellors of the three campuses — UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis, Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch — held a town hall as part of a road trip to all UI campuses. They each spoke and then took questions from students, faculty and staff about the university’s future.
Timothy L. Killeen, 20th president of the University of Illinois.
What did President Killeen have to say about sustainability?


(KLEIN-BANAI) Good afternoon. I’m Cindy Klein-Banai, associate chancellor for sustainability here at UIC. We recently released a report, a strategic thinking report here on campus, “To Green and Beyond: Excellence and Sustainability at UIC,” and it looked at how do we look at these issues that are pressing in the world today that integrate the environment, society, and economy together, and how do we educate our students in the future for that, develop research programs that take the opportunity for funding that’s out there for that and continue to build on, to go to green and beyond our operational initiatives and innovations. I was curious to see how you see that working at the university level and whether there’s opportunities for collaboration in that area as well.

(KILLEEN) Well, that sounds very exciting to me. I don’t know if you know much about my background, but that’s the softest of softballs, and so I have to hold myself back a little bit because even for a Cub fan, that’s, uh, (laughter).

You know, I think the world faces some social technical challenges that require universities to step forward with solutions. And those solutions, they need to be multifaceted, they need to embed social science, behavioral science, economics, biophysical research, etc. And this is inspiring to students. So this is an arena where we want to be known for not just green practices and, you know, but deep thinking in how to create resiliency in society and not just in modern western society but around the world.  And they’re so intellectually rich. I know, food security, secure coastline, fresh water security, conflict avoidance. These are all the things that we’re facing and it’s not like they’re in the distance. They’re right here in front of us. So I would — both of these things are very exciting. Help us weave it into the strategic vision of the University of Illinois.

And I like, actually, and you may not like this, you may squirm, the word sustainability is a little shopworn. We could have a miserable sustainable world. We need to thrive. So I prefer thriveability actually. We need a world that is not just sustained but is actually where people can grow and live and have families and nurture healthful outcomes. And I think that is something where we need also the humanities and the arts, and the ethicists and the religion. So I want you — you have to refrain me on that one. The other topic was also likewise good. The chancellor already upped the ante, so I’m not going to do it further.Thank you.

– See more at UIC News.

Tree Campus USA- Reason to Environmental Revitalization.

When I first heard about SIP internship for Tree Campus USA, it ignited my interest to acquire more knowledge of what it is. When I googled Tree Campus USA, unexpectedly, I opened the website for Tree Campus USA sponsored by the Arbor Tree foundation.  I learned about the sponsorship of the program and how it encourages other college campus to adapt to green practices.  It is delightful to know about numerous campuses that are involved in this novel work. The site’s information of how their global initiative could help sustain the environment for the future was fascinating and this enticed me to be a tree-tern (Tree Campus USA Inter).

As a Tree-tern, we were introduced to the asset value of trees.  At Tree Campus USA, we are not just researching, but also engaging UIC student community in sustainable work practices.  We have been working on a research project, which illustrate and examines the growth rate of Native vs Non Native species.  Further, data were taken for top 13 abundant trees from 5000 UIC tree canopies to elucidate the growth rate of the UIC tree forest. This research can be used to prosper tree biodiversity on campus, while making an iDOT tree plan.  Data sets were used to run t-test and chi-square analysis to acquire significance of numbers. See the full poster-style report here.

Neel Thakkar - Tree CampusBy: Neel Thakkar


The most precious thing on Earth

Michael Papadakis - storm waterLet’s be frank.  The UIC campus is in dire need of an overhaul.  Most of the buildings on campus are ugly concrete monoliths decades old.  This is never more evident than when you stand next to the newly rebuilt Lincoln and Douglas Halls.  Modern design with green roofs and beautiful rain gardens.  Hopefully the first step of many.

The Stormwater Research program is responsible for testing the new green tech infrastructure of those buildings in order to showcase the benefits of the facilities and not just the beauty.  Once the rest of the campus is converted (hopefully by 2018) there will be enormous reductions to all the flooding you see on campus as well as a more sophisticated rain collection system.  These increases in sustainability and also visibility will increase the demand for green tech in surrounding areas.

Only a fraction of the water in the world is fresh water and most of what we drink and use actually comes from groundwater.  However the water table levels have been dropping all over the world.  We are using our groundwater supplies faster than they can regenerate.  Because of this, it is imperative that a new form of water collection be introduced.  Our work at Stormwater is endeavoring to work towards the goal of sustainability, that is to say, make sure we can be sustained.  And the most important resource on Earth is water.

By: Michael Papadakis

Visualizing The UIC Energy Initiative

Frank Dalio - EI

A current poster Frank is putting together for the iThink series

I am working for the UIC Energy Initiative Program this summer, and to say that this internship has taught me many things that I wasn’t necessarily expecting to learn would be an understatement. To expand, I have learned how to use Inkscape and Gimp, both are forms of vector graphic editing software, which have increased my electronic visual capabilities immensely. I have used these newly learned skills to help the Energy Initiative create multiple hallway posters, and flyers for upcoming related courses that will be offered in the fall. This internship has been extremely rewarding not only because of the new computer skills that I have learned, but also because I am personally responsible for increased awareness about the Energy Initiative across campus, and its great to know I can be an active part of engaging students in what this great program stands for. Now would be a good time to explain exactly what the UIC Energy Initiative is. The Energy Initiative strives towards innovation in the cross-disciplinary fields of energy and sustainability. Currently, programs include SISE, (Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy) an extensive yearly summer program, a newly launched iThink lecture series, as well as several UIC courses focused around the important issues of energy in today’s society. To give a bit more detail on the specific programs, SISE’s theme for August 2015 will be Digital Rebirth, which will address the coming smart era as a result of digital integration; explore the crossroads of digital manufacturing, smart cities, and energy in the form of the smart grid and transportation; and consider how these innovations can usher in a more sustainable future. Within this week-long program, guest speakers could be, but are not limited to, UIC alumni, sustainability officials, UIC staff, and Health officials from the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System.

By: Frank Dalio

Get Energy Smart with Smart Grid at UIC

Over the course of this summer, the Office of Sustainability has provided many students the opportunity to be part of various internships on campus to showcase the practice of a more sustainable lifestyle. One internship in particular I am blessed to be part of is the Smart Grid Internship. Smart Grid is a new two-way communication technology that tracks information and usage from suppliers to homeowners about electricity. The smart grid utilizes smart meters provided by ComEd to track this information so that electricity bills are no longer estimated costs, black outages are restored faster, and consumers have full control over power bills.

marketplace 2015

Marketplace at UIC

In order for the Smart Grid Interns to get the word out about the smart meters to students/homeowners we have had seminars and events on/off campus. One event that has been very important this summer is Marketplace during freshmen orientation. Marketplace has allowed us to show incoming freshmen early on what this new technology is and how it can be beneficial at home. It is also important for us to teach freshmen how they can be energy efficient even if they plan on living in residence halls. Our number one goal as Smart Grid Interns is to make sure we continue spreading knowledge about Smart Grid and its energy efficient and sustainable lifestyle across UIC’s campus.

By: Divya H. Patel

Smart Grid Saves the Day

Sam Strader - Smart grid

A smart meter

My internship project has primarily been about informing students, faculty, staff, and parents about what Smart Grid is and the benefits they can receive from it. One sustainability issue behind Smart Grid is the fact that energy inefficient power plants could be eased out of the electrical grid if people are able to understand and then use Smart Grid technology. Finding a platform to reach people has been the main challenge of this internship. But we have met this challenge by sharing information through events, video production, and poster designs. The most interesting thing about this internship is seeing people’s creativity come out in designs and creative ideas. Along with educating about Smart Grid, we want to increase the understanding of UIC’s student body about our Energy Dashboard as well. If people on campus are able to view the real time energy usage of different buildings at UIC, they will probably be more likely to make decisions that are sustainable such as making use of the revolving doors and not holding doors open to keep in heat or cool air inside of buildings. I hope through this internship that more people think about their energy usage and thus their carbon footprint not only at UIC but in the rest of the areas of their life.

By: Sam Strader

Tree Campus USA Internship. It’s Not Just Hugging Trees

Edder Antunez - Tree campus USAAs a Tree Campus USA Intern, or tree-terns as we like to be called, my job consists of measuring the growth of trees located throughout UIC’s campus in a three person group. We are doing a small research project in which we are measuring the growth of UIC’s west side campus from 2013 to summer 2015. The measurements we obtain are the tree’s height and DBH (diameter at breast height). Measuring tape is used to obtain the tree’s DBH, and the tree height is measured with a Biltmore stick, a specialized ruler, and more measuring tape. We hope to analyze the data and find out the growth of UIC trees in a two year time difference, whether it be positive or negative values.

Our internship helps out UIC to achieve its Climate Action Plan to significantly reduce CO2Treetern measures HoneyLocust 2015 emissions in the near future by using the trees as a tool. As we all know, trees take CO2 from the atmosphere and generate O2 in exchange. By figuring out how much our trees have grown, software can be used to figure out how much CO2 is sequestered into trees from the atmosphere and how much O2 is generated. As a result, values are given to our trees and UIC can then take the appropriate actions to preserve them and keep them healthy to further reduce CO2 emissions, essentially creating a positive feedback loop that will continue to combat man-made air pollution.

By: Edder Antunez

So why are trees important again?

When I came across an email about Sustainability Internship Program, I was ecstatic! An internship dedicated entirely to making our campus more sustainable, I didn’t think such a thing existed. I looked at the Tree Campus USA internship opportunity and thought “okay, yeah, trees are important for the environment.. they like do things for it.” Karima Patel - Tree Campus USANeedless to say, even though I knew trees were important to our environment, I didn’t know why. From my time at SIP, I learned about the importance of trees on our campus. For one, they aid in the reduction of climate change. In one year, a single mature tree will absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and release it as oxygen. The amount of oxygen that one single tree produces is enough to provide one day’s supply of oxygen for four people. So while you are busy studying and working on earning those good grades, all the trees on campus are also working hard to make the air cleaner for us. Trees on our campus impact our mental health as well, studies have shown that trees greatly reduce stress, which is a huge deal considering many students are under some amount of stress. One of the most shocking facts about the trees on campus is that there’s just so many of them. Being an urban school, people don’t realize how many trees there actually are at UIC, there are over 5000 trees. As a SIP intern, I take inventory of trees on campus and evaluate their growth over the years, as their growth and good health are crucial in order to provide many of their benefits. Working with the trees on campus has taught me that the trees aren’t just important, but they are vital.

“Tree Facts.” Tree Facts at The Arbor Day Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.

By: Karima Patel

Building a Sustainable Bronzeville

As a Smart Grid intern at Centers for New Horizons (CNH), my goal is to gain an understanding of Smart Grid and how it fits into the Bronzeville community as a resource for those attempting a more sustainable lifestyle. The mission at CNH aligns perfectly with my own, “Centers for New Horizons’ mission is to develop the capacities of families to become self-reliant, to improve the quality of their lives, and to participate in rebuilding their community.” CNH works toward their goals through community education and development. My role is to educate the Bronzeville community on technologies and programs offered to residents that make living a sustainable life easier. I do this through presentations, done in conjunction with my supervisor, that talk about what a sustainable community is and how through smart technology and combined efforts, Bronzeville can be a national leader of sustainable living. Another effort that CNH take part in is developing urban agriculture in Bronzeville. I have been able to work closely with youth in the garden and see how community members appreciate green actions in their neighborhood.

Working in a community like Bronzeville is very interesting, the community is redeveloping and being sustainable seems to be a high priority in its redevelopment. The community wants to be sustainable in all ways possible, be it by having gardens throughout the community or restoring murals to beautify their neighborhood, Bronzeville is truly a leader of sustainable in Chicago and it is posed to be a leader in the nation soon. I am truly looking forward to working with CNH and the Bronzeville community this summer to further these sustainable efforts.SG, CNH - Jose Hernandez

Jose Hernandez