Loyola Chicago Charts a Course Toward a Just Future

Loyola Chicago, a 16,000-student Jesuit Catholic university in the heart of Chicago, offers students a rare mix of big-city urban life and stunning natural beauty: The picturesque main campus on Chicago’s North Side overlooks Lake Michigan while its downtown campus sits just off Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile. Ranked one of the top 100 universities in the country and dedicated to social justice in the spirit of the school’s faith tradition, Loyola Chicago boasts prominent alumni and leadership on social issues like equity and environmental sustainability.

Loyola Chicago, a signatory of the Climate Leadership Network at Second Nature, is committed to addressing climate change in its educational curriculum, operations, and community engagement strategies. To codify that intention, the school recently released its climate action plan, “A Just Future,” which lays out a path for achieving carbon-neutrality by 2025. The plan recommends aggressively reducing energy use and increasing clean energy, procuring renewable energy credits and carbon offsets, providing incentives to boost teaching and research about climate, and implementing climate-ready infrastructure projects.

Almost 1,400 of the university’s courses address sustainability issues, and since 2012 the undergraduate core curriculum incorproates sustainability as part of scientific literacy. The univeristy’s experiential learning and social justice emphases have led students to work outside campus on projects that include promoting composting and stormwater management in local communities.

On campus, a move toward sustainability started almost a decade ago: The university has reduced its total carbon emissions by 38 percent per square foot of facility since 2008. The campuses also now house 11 LEED certified buildings, two geothermal installations, and 55,000 square feet of green roofs—more than any other Midwestern university.

Campus improvements involve increasing efficiency of central systems including potable water; installing retrofits like upgraded glazing, insulation, and lighting; implementing passive ventilation and stormwater management strategies; and focusing on demand reduction. Plans are in the works to institute clean-energy procurement policies that that will permanently reduce emissions. A student-run biodiesel program uses vegeable oil to power the school’s shuttle buses and produce hand soap for restrooms.

Beyond campus, Loyola Chicago is active in advocating for state-wide clean-energy policies and in seeking foundation funding to help other universities participate in clean-energy and emissions-reducations programs.

Loyola Chicago’s full-surround engagement on climate and sustainability has earned accolades, placing the school in the Sierra Club “Cool Schools Top 10” and bringing it a Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.