Office of Sustainability Annual Report 2019

The Office of Sustainability sets forth UIC’s sustainability goals. 

We guide the Chancellor’s Committee on Sustainability and Energy (CCSE) to develop strategies to institutionalize the goals, facilitate the execution of the Climate Action Implementation Plan (CAIP), and offer signature services and programs. Scroll down to read about the many accomplishments in 2019.

Chancellor's Committee on Sustainability & Energy (CCSE)

Members of all five CCSE subcommittees came together in September at the All CCSE Member meeting to discuss how they can help advance the CAIP. This year, the Office of Sustainability facilitated 13 in-person meetings with over 150 faculty, staff, and student members of the CCSE.

The Co-Chairs of the CCSE met with the Chancellor in May to discuss UIC’s sustainability goals and accomplishments. Here are the highlights:

  • Education & Research: Campus-wide sustainability survey, teaching sustainability in the curriculum workshops, minor in Sustainability in the College of Urban Planning and Public Administration.
  • Energy and Utilities: Strategic Energy Management team and UIC Energy Policy.
  • Grounds: Tree Care Plan, Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan, and the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Plan.
  • Sustainable Materials: UI Health recognized as a member in Practice Green Health, and new composting and waste diversion programs.
  • Transportation: Campus-wide commuter survey and coordinates efforts with the CTA.

Office of Sustainability Programs

Sustainability Internship Program students

Sustainability Internship Program (SIP)

In 2019, the UIC Office of Sustainability supported 37 student internships across 6 university departments.  These dedicated student interns attended 10 seminars and went on 12 field trips.  They shared their internship experience in 22 posters across 2 poster presentations. This summer, our interns went all out on social media, taking over our Instagram.

Check out what they did and get a detailed view into their internships.

Sustainability Fee

The Sustainability Fee funded 10 projects including 6 internships. Some projects that were funded in 2019 include Jimmy Byron’s proposal to install Reflux Condensers in laboratories and UV Filtration in Campus Recreation’s hot tub to save water, Alan Pardo’s Aquaponics proposal, and Erick Vaquero’s proposal to restore the Lincoln Hall Bioswale.

Tree Campus USA

UIC was once again awarded a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation on April 27, 2019 for our efforts in 2018. We expect to be awarded a Tree Campus once again for our 2019 efforts like Service Learning Projects, Arbor Day Observances, and Tree Care Plan updates thanks to SIP student Heaven Silva.

On Arbor Day we had 25 volunteers plant 8 trees made only possible through a grant from Openlands. Back by popular demand, students, staff and faculty participated in multiple Tree Walks: one in June with the Academic Professional Advisory Committee and two in October with the student group Eco-educators to celebrate OAKtober.

For this year’s Tree Campus USA Service Learning Project, SIP students created a way for the UIC community to personally interact with the UIC tree inventory via the online What Tree Are You personality quiz. Nearly 1,000 people took the quiz!

Bicycle Friendly University

UIC retained its Silver status in the Bicycle Friendly University program  from the League of American Bicyclists and will reapply in 2020. This summer, SIP student Lily Zheng helped to inventory and map all of UIC’s bike racks, and helped UIC get third place in the Chicago Bike Commuter Challenge!

Energy Conscious Campus

In 2019, the Office of Sustainability hired its first Publicity Promotion Specialist to execute strategy 1.2.2 of the CAIP, the Energy Conscious Campus and begun publicizing the building retrofits that are taking place across campus. We’ve also deployed the #FlamesWashCold campaign in conjunction with Campus Housing, to encourage students to wash their clothes using cold water. In the Spring, SIP student Sarah Shaban helped 5 UIC labs compete in the International Freezer Challenge.

Pollinator Friendly Campus/ Bee Campus USA

UIC published the Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan and trained over 50 Facilities Management employees on Integrated Pest Management techniques and how to care for native prairie garden. SIP student Megan Chrzas beautifully details the progress of the Little Prairie on the Campus in her poster this past summer.

After just 3 growing seasons, the Little Prairie on the Campus is an established prairie and should only need minimal annual maintenance to continue to thrive. SIP students created the Prairie Maintenance Guide this summer to ensure that the prairie will return beautifully year after year.


Over 100 faculty, staff, and students volunteered their time at events in 2019 to help event attendees properly separate, recycle and compost their trash to help increase UIC’s landfill diversion rate. This year at the annual Good Food EXPO held at the UIC Forum in March was able to divert 95% of the events waste from the landfill via EcoVolunteers guiding consumers and vendors where their waste should go! Read all about the accomplishments on SIP student Gigi Sanders’ poster.


UIC maintained its Silver recognition in 2018. In 2019, the Office of Sustainability met with nearly 50 faculty and staff across all Vice Chancellor Offices to strategize how UIC can earn STARS Gold for the next submission in 2021.


In 2019, the Office of Sustainability revamped the EcoReps program with 10 monthly webinar meetings to nearly 200 EcoReps with topics covering Food Waste, Parking and Transportation, Energy Awareness, How to Form a Green Team, Biking @ UIC and much more.


The Office of Sustainability had a presence at 2 external conferences and gave 10 internal presentations to staff and students. Check out the students’ perspective of the annual AASHE conference on our Instagram story. We also created a form to let faculty easily request a member of our office to come and talk to their class.

Office of Sustainability's Signature Services

waste audit volunteer stand over thousands of disposed single-use beverage cups designed to look like the UIC logo.

Campus Sustainability Standards

Who says standards aren’t exciting? This year, UIC published the Sustainable Design Standard with help of the Office of Sustainability to help every new building and major renovation achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2050.

Recycling and Waste Management

Waste Audit

This past November, members from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and multiple volunteers helped the Office of Sustainability conduct a campus-wide waste audit sampling 11 buildings. Most of the waste included single-use beverage containers found in the trash.

Food Recovery

In 2019, our food recovery program, partnered with student volunteers in the Food Recovery Network, collected more than 18,000 pounds of prepared and packaged food and beverages to distribute to community-based shelters on Chicago’s West Side – a 140% increase from 2018! SIP student Javier Pacheco’s Spring 2019 internship poster details some of the program’s successes.

Recycling Reset

During the summer, undergraduate students known as the Recycling Reset Team visited more than 100 campus buildings to ensure that recycling infrastructure is up-to-date. Collecting our major recycling requires a bin each for paper, bottles and cans, and landfill (non-recyclables). The reset team reestablished stations, cleaned bins, replaced broken lids, applied labels, and put up signs. The effort leads to an increase in communications (requests for equipment, pick-ups, questions about recycling stream). Volunteers from IGNITE liked it so much last year, they came back again this summer to volunteer for a day. SIP students Lizbeth Carrazco and Nataly Hernandez Orozco’s Summer 2019 internship poster explain some of the data they collected.

Recycling Events

Great Stuff Exchange

The UIC Great Stuff Exchange distributed about 350 cubic feet of items, including binders, hanging file folders, printer cartridges, office supplies, knick knacks, and even two beds to about 700 shoppers!

Campus Electronic Recycling Collection

The Campus Electronic Recycling Collection (CERC) was one of the largest yet!  Our East side event collected an impressive 8 pallets and five tubs of electronics.  Not to be outdone, the following week, our West side event collected 9 pallets and 9 tubs of electronics.


members of the sustainability staff at the Emerald Awards

The Office of Sustainability works hard to make sure we are locally and nationally recognized for the great work everyone at our university is doing. We couldn’t have done all of our accomplishments without the partnerships from all UIC units!

14th Annual Illinois Green Alliance Awards

The University of Illinois at Chicago was among the winners of the 14th annual Emerald Awards for 2019. Each year, the annual Emerald Awards  program recognizes the unique green building leadership in Illinois by featuring the best and brightest individuals, projects, and technologies championed in Illinois. UIC received the Emerald Award for Organizational Leadership for our Climate Action Implementation Plan that advances the practice of sustainability among all campus stakeholders through operations, education, research, and leadership.

UN Global Goal Award

The United Nations Association and the Global Goals announced the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Office of Sustainability as one of 17 winners of the 2019 Global Goals Awards. These awards recognize the work that Chicago-area individuals and organizations do to uphold the principles of the 17 UN Global Goals through their daily efforts or business operations. The UIC Office of Sustainability was recognized for our dedication to Sustainable Development Goal 13, “Climate Action” via our Climate Action Implementation Plan.

UIC Award of Merit

Joe Iosbaker was among just 30 UIC employees recognized at the 2019 Award of Merit ceremony in November. The Award of Merit recognizes outstanding Academic Professionals and Civil Service employees. It is a university-wide honor available to UIC campus staff who exhibit service, commitment, and dedication.