Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago views sustainability as a new way to solve old problems. The university takes sustainability into account for everything they do, from the courses they offer to buildings they build. Sustainability learning objectives are integrated across the curriculum. Students at Loyola University learn sustainability concepts in social justice, public health, business development, and a variety of other areas of study. Programs such as the Compost Collection Network and biodiesel program encourage students to take the knowledge they learned and apply it to real world practices. Loyola University Chicago also works closely with the local Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago to develop storm water management strategies.

Student Preparedness           

At Loyola, the students drive the sustainability agenda. Over 20 projects at this year’s Weekend of Excellence highlighted student research on climate specific topics including water efficiency, stormwater management, sustainable food systems and solid waste management. Supported by research and teaching grants, fellowships and internships, Loyola seeks to integrate climate throughout the disciplinary experience of its students and faculty. Their sustainability across the curriculum approach identified 474 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, Loyola’s commitment to experiential learning and social justice has dedicated over 104,569 student hours to the local community this year alone. Loyola students helped the Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project, a neighboring group, prepare their award-winning Climate Action Plan. Through external funding, Loyola students helped create the Compost Collection Network to subsidize organic waste diversion and commercial-scale composting saving fuel through efficient routing and reduced methane emissions from landfilling. Another recent grant shared stormwater management strategies, one of the most pressing climate forecast issues for their region, with the diverse communities directly adjacent to the Lake Shore Campus through a partnership with a local Chicago Park District advisory council. A partnership with a local high school has allowed Loyola’s students to engage Chicago Public School students on topics from biodiesel and clean energy to climate resiliency.

Climate Innovation

As a significant leader in sustainability, Loyola University’s nationally recognized Biodiesel program is creating clean energy opportunities that are not reliant on centralized fuel networks. Their new facility, the Institute of Environmental Sustainability uses biodiesel and a geothermal system (the largest in Chicagoland) to generate all of the heat energy required. Loyola’s stormwater management keeps over 18 million gallons of rainwater out of the combined sewer system providing relief for aging infrastructure and protecting neighbors basements and local waterways including the Chicago River and Lake Michigan from untreated sewage releases. Faculty and students at their Retreat and Ecology Campus are restoring an oak/hickory woodland and a wetland that directly contribute to a globally rare fen.

In partnership with the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, Loyola’s Climate Action Plan commits the school to climate neutrality for Scope 1&2 emissions by 2020. 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 the university’s 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 the stormwater management efforts and altering their plant selections going forward. Other student efforts installed rain gardens, wildlife forage landscapes, and water efficiency retrofits.

Creating Opportunity

Since 2008, Loyola has reduced its total energy use by 13% (in KBTUs) while increasing total square footage and full-time students. Investments in central systems decommissioning and efficiency are coupled with decentralized 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 conserving energy and money. The university utilizes demand reduction and is nearing a commitment on clean energy procurement that will reduce emissions for decades to come. Loyola has helped to advocate for state-wide clean energy policies and worked with a coalition of Chicago-universities and their local utilities to receive foundation funding that helps other universities participate in energy efficiency incentive programs and reduce GHG emissions. In their endowment, Loyola has been nationally recognized for shareholder advocacy strategies around global water access and fossil fuel extraction.

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 their surrounding communities.

In total, Loyola is engaging the entire community around climate-smart planning from energy to landscapes, from curriculum to community relations. As an urban, Jesuit university, Loyola has found common ground in connecting resilience for all communities to their values of social justice and transformative education.