Awards & Recognition

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The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been recognized locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally for its efforts in improving sustainability. Here are some of the more recent awards our campus has received:

STARS Gold Level — Recertified 2019

STARS Gold Level logo

In 2019, for the fourth time in a row, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned Gold Level honors in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), the nation’s most comprehensive sustainability rating system.

Our Gold rating was made possible by outstanding energy and resource savings work performed by Facilities & Services, as well as inclusion of sustainability across most campus academic units in degree programs and more than 500 courses. The new student-written Q Magazine which highlights environmental issues, the Field to Flame project which uses a biomass boiler to heat the main greenhouse at the Illinois Energy Farm, and the Student Sustainability Committee-funded Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre project were among our other accomplishments that were recognized by STARS.

STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance, and 942 institutions have used the tool. As of its certification March 7, 2019, Illinois was one of 108 schools to achieve Gold in Version 2.1 of the STARS tool. Among the four Big Ten Conference schools that were certified with Gold Status, Illinois had the highest score. Go Illini!

Sierra Club Cool Schools of 2019

Sierra Club logo

Illinois was No. 48 out of 312 four-year higher education institutions in Sierra Club Magazine’s “Cool Schools” contest in 2020. The U of I ranked second in the Big Ten Conference (behind No. 40 Maryland). Campuses participate by completing an extensive questionnaire (61 questions and a supplemental question about fossil fuel investments) about sustainability practices, which is then evaluated by a team of experts at the Sierra Club. Illinois was No. 20 (and tops in the Big Ten) out of 282 schools in 2019, placed top 100 in 2018, 56th in 2017, 33rd in 2016, and 38th in 2015.

2018 Second Nature Climate Leadership Award

Second Nature Marks of Distinction logo

Second Nature

In January 2019, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was named the ninth winner of the Climate Leadership Award.

Each year, Boston nonprofit Second Nature and the U.S. Green Building Council select one four-year and one two-year institution for recognition. The U of I and Delta College were honored in 2018.

Illinois was specifically cited for its depth and breadth of sustainability, energy, and environmental research, measures such as the Solar Farm and renewable energy purchasing, its comprehensive energy savings efforts, educational offerings in sustainability from across the campus curriculum, and behavior-change and student activities that engage the campus community in sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Bicycle Friendly University

Bicycle Friendly University logo

In October 2019, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned its first Silver designation as a Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) from the League of American Bicyclists.

The U of I, which has maintained bronze-level BFU certification since 2011 and is one of 208 colleges and universities recognized nationally, is now one of 94 with Silver level or better (Silver, Gold, Platinum) BFU status, for taking significant steps to address health and environmental challenges by creating safer, more welcoming and accessible areas for people who bike.

The BFU program evaluates applicants’ efforts to promote bicycling in five primary areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning. Some of the university’s recent initiatives that contributed to receiving silver certification were the publication of the 2014 Campus Bike Plan, bike path and bike lane improvement projects, bicycle rack parking upgrades and additions (11,635 bike parking spaces in 2019), the launch of the Bike at Illinois website, the start of VeoRide bike sharing availability in 2018, and the improvement of bicycle route network through the MCORE project.

Tree Campus USA

Tree Campus USA logo

In March 2020, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned its fifth straight designation as an official Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forestry.

To care for its more than 20,000 trees, campus maintains a tree advisory committee and a campus tree-care plan.

The Arbor Day Foundation also awarded the U of I the Tree Campus USA designation in 2016-19.

Bee Campus USA

Bee Campus USA logo

In 2019, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was recertified as a Bee Campus USA for the second straight year. It is one of 99 campuses nationwide designated as pollinator friendly.

The U of I was recognized in October 2018 as the 53rd Bee Campus USA, and the first in the Big Ten Conference.

The U of I met and — will continue to strive to meet — all of the requirements: convening a Bee Campus USA Committee of faculty, staff, and students; fostering community engagement through awareness events; sponsoring on-campus service-learning projects; offering pollinator-focused courses; educating campus and the broader community through communications and a web presence; developing a campus habitat plan; and continuing to pursue and update its Bee Campus USA status annually.

EPA Green Power Partner

EPA Green Power Partner logo

In May 2015, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was officially recognized as an EPA Green Power Partner for its purchase of electricity from clean, renewable sources. This designation has been renewed annually, through the continued dedication to a clean energy future for the campus. In the early years of this designation, our campus needed 3% of the power to be coming from renewable sources. Starting in 2020, the requirement was increased to 7%. F&S renewed our campus' recognition as a Green Power Partner for FY20 through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with a combined clean power supply of 7.2% of the total FY20 electricity usage.