Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago seeks to use sustainability to position students and the college to meet the emerging challenges and opportunities in the 21st Century. This includes a holistic commitment to environmental responsibility, social equity, and economic vitality. The college commits to integrate educational excellence, operational efficiency, and community responsibility in an ongoing search for a better global future. In addressing the climate challenge by reducing global warming emissions, Columbia has become a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Columbia educates students who will communicate creatively, shape the public perception, and author the culture of their times.

In practice, Columbia College Chicago is committed to transforming its urban campus in the South Loop into a model for environmental sustainability. Such efforts include an extensive recycling program, efficient HVAC systems, and using criteria for LEED certification in construction processes. Columbia’s largely visible commitment to this effort lies within its green spaces which include two green roofs, a native garden, and its newest space, the Papermaker’s Garden.

In the spring of 2012, Columbia unveiled the Papermaker’s Garden on a vacant lot at the center of campus. The project from gravel to growth was founded and programmed by students, faculty, and staff from Columbia’s Center for Book and Paper Arts. This summer of 2013, the garden saw a second phase that expanded it to double in size. The garden is now a field laboratory offering 18 beds with growing medium and fiber producing plants, a rain water collection system, and a multipurpose performance and learning pavilion. The expansion included planting trees and additional ground cover which provides a mini local habitat for wildlife.

Columbia’s students receive hands-on education in the entire process of planting, growing, managing, collecting, and utilizing plant fibers. Plants are harvested and used for fiber production in the Center’s Papermaking studio. This garden allows students to engage with environmental concerns, such as how green spaces reduce air pollution, air temperature, and urban runoff, as well as interdisciplinary artistic practices that address science, art, and the environment. This project is an exemplary model for how cross departmental collaborations are shaping our curriculum.