Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago has made a commitment to address climate change and the associated disruptions to natural and social infrastructure as a key aspect of our mission of social justice. Announced as part of an event for Laudato si’, Pope Francis’ Encyclical, we released ‘A Just Future’, our climate action plan with a carbon neutrality goal of 2025. As a Catholic, Jesuit, urban, university, Loyola addresses climate through three main strategies; our campus, our curriculum and our community engagement.
At Loyola, our students drive our sustainability agenda. Over 30 projects at this year’s Weekend of Excellence highlighted student research on climate specific topics. Supported by research and teaching grants, fellowships and internships, Loyola seeks to integrate climate throughout the experience of our students and faculty. Our Sustainability Across the Curriculum initiative identified 1,384 courses that include or are focused on sustainability learning objectives. In 2012, sustainability was added to the core curriculum for all undergraduate students under the scientific literacy knowledge area.
Outside of the classroom, our commitment to experiential learning and social justice have dedicated over 100,000 student hours to our local community this year alone. Recent grants have subsidized composting programs at local grocers and restaurants, stormwater management for local neighbors and small businesses and partnerships with our local high schools to engage Chicago Public Schools on topics from biodiesel and clean energy to climate resilience.
A transformation of our campus has reduced our carbon emissions by 38% from a baseline of 2008 per square foot of facility. Loyola is now home to 11 LEED certified buildings across three campuses and has more green roofs than any other university in the Midwest. We engage our community through dashboards, signage and a “campus as lab” program that allows students to work on improving the infrastructure all around them. We are well known for our student-run biodiesel program which fuels our shuttle buses and provides our restroom soap all made from waste vegetable oil. Our buildings are high-performing and energy efficient and two campuses feature large-scale geothermal installations. Our campus is a highly visible example of climate action.
In partnership with the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, Loyola’s Climate Action Plan commits us to climate neutrality for Scope 1&2 emissions by 2025. Targeting a 10% reduction in energy use per square foot, considerable clean energy, renewable energy credit and carbon offset procurement, climate engagement through teaching and research incentives and climate-ready infrastructure projects including all capital and landscape projects over $10,000.
Student led projects evaluated two of our major campuses for their climate threats and resiliency as part of Chicago Wilderness’ Climate Action Plan for Nature using the Climate Considerations Guidebook. This led to a series of actions removing potential invasive species, continuing our stormwater management efforts and altering our plant selections going forward. Other student efforts installed rain gardens, wildlife forage landscapes, and water efficiency retrofits.
Since 2008, Loyola has reduced it’s total energy use by 28% (in KBTUs) while increasing total square footage and full-time students. Investments in central systems efficiency are coupled with improvements in glazing, insulation, commissioning, LED lighting and other retrofits. A suite of new, high-performing buildings are national best practice for passive ventilation strategies. We utilize demand reduction and are nearing a commitment on clean energy procurement that will reduce emissions for decades to come. We have helped to advocate for state-wide clean energy policies and worked with a coalition of Chicago-universities and our local utilities to receive foundation funding that helps other universities participate in energy programs and reduce GHG emissions.
Water planning, both stormwater management and potable water efficiency, has been a recent focus. Signage all across campus highlights climate-smart green infrastructure including over 55,000 square feet of green roofs (more than any other university in the Midwest) and class-leading stormwater treatment chain that recharges Lake Michigan. Research on residence hall water efficiency from psychology faculty has compared behavior versus infrastructure interventions both on-campus but also in our surrounding communities.
Loyola’s work on climate and sustainability has been recognized and rewarded. Consistently in the Sierra Club Cool Schools Top 10, Loyola is a Gold rated AASHE STARS university. Just this year, Loyola received the Climate Leadership award from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and Solution Generation for our commitment to continued climate action in our neighboring communities.