Department Zero Waste Policy

Sustainability is an effort to live and thrive without the need to extract and consume additional resources outside of a sustainable “loop”.  Creating a closed loop, sustainability-orientated campus and community will multiply financial resources, establish a strong reputation for climate justice, and contribute to combating the climate crisis. This is no small task and we’ll need everyone’s experiences and perspectives to collaborate and be a part of the solution!

Doing More with Less

Landfills, especially in Illinois, are reaching capacity, overseas destinations are no longer eager to accept American refuse or recyclables. We are long overdue, both as a campus and as a country, to redouble our efforts in achieving dramatically more sustainable lifestyles. As a leader in sustainability, the University of Illinois at Chicago must expeditiously transition away from single-use plastics, dramatically reduce food waste, and alter broader consumption habits to the benefit of UIC, society, and the Earth.

UIC’s Opportunity to Lead

The University of Illinois at Chicago is rightly recognized as one of the leading public research institutions in the United States.  While the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is no shortage of monumental challenges facing us today, the climate crisis remains the most pressing existential threat to modern society.  Failing to establish UIC as a world leader in sustainable practices would be missed opportunity of immense scale.  UIC is in a position right now to apply its incredibly talented and innovative student body to addressing the climate crisis and sustainability movement.  Climate will likely be the defining issue of our time and this presents an opportunity to secure UIC’s status as an authority on achieving a sustainable, world-class institution of higher learning.  A robust, campus-wide sustainability effort would identify UIC as a resource for the City of Chicago as well as an example for similar large universities.

No Zero-sum Game

The most important aspect missed regarding sustainability is the mistaken belief that incorporating sustainable practices is an additional cost to shoulder.  To the contrary, the biggest expense pertaining to sustainability is failing to act.  Failing to act, not in the dramatic sense that the ice caps will melt (they still will), but more so that our current habits are ripe with inefficiencies and waste.  Throwing out ~40% of food, leaving inefficient lights and appliances on or installed, and printing copious amounts of unneeded pages all come at great cost. Changing campus habits and fulfilling UIC’s potential as the authority on sustainability would be some of the most astute investments possible.

Zero Waste Toolkit

The Office of Planning, Sustainability, and Project Management is asking all available faculty, staff, and students to review what changes they can commit to in order to better incorporate the principles of sustainability into our daily campus lives.

Single-use Plastics

  • Does your unit or office have a refillable drinking fountain nearby? Are coworkers using reusable water bottles?
  • Transition to eliminating single-use plastics at hosted or catered unit events.
  • Emphasize reusability and incentivize bringing lunches from home.

Paper Reduction

  • Audit your office and compile a list of printers, copiers, and fax machines (personal and communal).
  • Review printing equipment and determine what can be consolidated? What can be removed?
  • Are printers plugged into energy efficient power trips? Is their “sleep mode” enabled?

Trash and Recycling

  • Ensure all bins are clearly labeled with their respective category and intended contents.
  • Determine interest in the addition of a composting bin.
  • Review best practices for recycling with unit members. Many plastics can’t be recycled, other items must be cleaned.

Zero Waste worksheets

Information Request for the Zero Waste Policy Template

After reviewing the waste reduction and goal setting worksheets above, fill out this form to have a PSPM staff member respond to you about developing your department’s Zero Waste Policy.

  • Name * Required

read the full UIC Sustainable Materials Management Plan

Other Zero Waste Resources