UC garners sustainable, green campus success

One award-winning, energy-efficient innovation at a time

As we approach the 51st anniversary of Earth Day this Thursday, April 22, the University of Cincinnati boasts more than a rolling green campus with amazing eye appeal.  

From prioritizing environmental education in the classroom to setting higher sustainability standards — including energy-efficient buildings with air and water quality management — UC continually revolutionizes its commitment toward a green and eco-friendly campus. And it's racking up sustainability recognition on a national level.

Carl H. Lindner College of Business – new headquarters dedicated in September 2019

Exterior of UC's Carl H. Lindner College of Business, designed with UV protected windows and energy-efficient materials. Photo/Alex Fradkin

For the third time overall for UC, and a first for its Uptown West campus, UC’s new Carl H. Lindner College of Business earned Gold LEED recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“The bioswales along the western side of the new Lindner building allow for stormwater conservation,” says Daniel Hart, UC Sustainability coordinator. “The green roof infrastructure is not just for aesthetic appeal, but along with Langsam Library’s living wall and other rooftop gardens, these green infrastructure features are actually multifunctional because they help capture stormwater, reduce the heat island effect, provide some habitat and help us in a variety of different ways to enhance the sustainability of our campus.”

Currently, 11 UC buildings hold LEED certified or silver recognition. In addition, three UC buildings hold LEED Gold certification including the CARE/Crawley College of Medicine awarded in 2008, the Allied Health Sciences Building in 2020 and now the LCOB in 2021.

In a concerted effort by UC Campus Planning, Design + Construction to design using more emerging green technologies, the latest campus structures include building materials that save energy, utilize natural light to illuminate classrooms and a number of structures that include subtle water management bioswales to divert and retain stormwater — all to reduce combined sewer overflow events, assist with irrigation, filter out contaminants and to keep water on site. 

Front cover of UC's Sustainability + Climate Action Plan showing grassy are in front of UC McMicken Hall

UC's Sustainability + Climate Action Plan

And it doesn’t stop there. Because of the university's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan — an initiative recognized nationally in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) — and it's  Environmental Literacy Certificate program, UC is recognized nationally on the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index for equipping students with foundational knowledge related to sustainability and ecological principles.

With the recent launch of UC's annual Sustainability Award Program, the university encourages and recognizes cutting-edge work by faculty, students and staff for sustainability efforts on campus and in the community.

Students create green campus network

Students use wheelbarrows while planting the UC Clermont campus pollinator garden

UC Clermont campus faculty, students and staff honor Earth Day by building a pollinator garden on campus grounds designed to attract birds, bees and other pollinators. photo/Danny Kidd/UC Clermont Marketing Services

Throughout the year, UC Sustainability sponsors a host of monthly engaging campus activities, all to educate and promote ways to enhance sustainability while reducing an environmental footprint.

But in the month of April, all four campuses step up to honor Earth Day on April 22 and during Earth Week with a series of events to help educate and promote opportunities for students, faculty and staff to roll up their sleeves and get involved in green initiatives — on campus, in the community and now virtually.

“We haven’t stopped. Even during the pandemic we are continuing to keep the campus community engaged with virtual tours of local parks and gardens, film discussions and campus-led projects to help promote outreach and cleanup efforts in the community,” says Hart.

UC students sit in grass at an outdoor sustainability summit.

UC students engage in discussions on biodiversity and green campus initiatives at the annual Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit.

“In our campus effort to support biodiversity and green infrastructure, UC Clermont recently installed a pollinator landscape garden designed to support pollinating animals and insects, while also slowing stormwater runoff and to enhance the aesthetic beauty of the Clermont campus.

"The garden includes plant species that help build biodiversity and attract pollinators, including butterflies, birds, bees and more." 

The Clermont College Sustainability Committee is supported by the entire university and made up of UC students, faculty and staff.

Other university supported projects include

  • UC President’s Advisory Council on Environmental & Sustainability (PACES): All-university committee working on behalf of campus environmental sustainability
  • Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit: UC-sponsored conference that brings together top leaders, students and faculty to discuss the latest innovations for reducing the climate footprint and supporting a vibrant, thriving landscape
  • Clean Up Cincy: UC-sanctioned community cleanup initiative
  • UC Serves: Staff and faculty day devoted to giving back through the shared experience of intentional, focused service to the communities surrounding UC campuse
  • Residence Hall Move-In/Move-Out (April 24-May 6): In partnership with Goodwill Industries, students living on campus can recycle items responsibly during move out. Bins placed in all residence halls will help recycle and divert millions of pounds of product from area landfill
  • Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum/UC to host Art & Earth Day event (April 24): A variety of free activities in the northwest Cincinnati sculpture park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to celebrate Arbor Day, Earth Day and International Sculpture Day
  • Re*Use Market (April 26-30, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.)(April 30, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.): Moving out? Stop by the Re*Use Market at 270 Calhoun St. (grassy area east of Old YMCA) to donate your unwanted belongings. All items will be donated to Goodwill to help divert waste. Items accepted are clothing, small furniture, books, school supplies and non-perishable food, etc.

Award-winning energy management

In addition to UC's international award for institutional energy management, the above video was selected for first place as part of the IDEA Campus Energy Video contest in 2020.

Saving electric and power costs through the purchase of wind energy for UC’s regional campuses is just one of several green initiatives UC Utilities has implemented in the last decade. 

“We have seen the tremendous cost benefits of purchasing green wind energy for the Blue Ash and Clermont campuses and are currently looking at purchasing wind and solar energy resources for the Uptown Campus,” says Mike Hofmann, UC Utilities director. “Because of our work with the city sewer district, we’re adding isolation valves to our campus stormwater retention tanks to allow the water company the ability to control the discharge into the system, as well as allowing our utilities department access to that collective water.”

Hofmann’s work in collaboration with the environmental engineering group out of UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science capstone project also resulted in student-designed initiatives to capture all of the stormwater runoff from around UC's Fifth Third Arena and bring it back to the central utility plant and reuse it. Instead of all campus stormwater leaving campus, much of it will remain in retention tanks and is diverted to support cooling towers during summer months. 

It’s a win-win for both UC and the environment because it eliminates the need to treat millions of gallons of water that would otherwise go back into the environment, and Hofmann says UC can reuse its own water for free to cool buildings and recirculate through the cooling tower system and power plant turbines.

These efforts have garnered national and international recognition for efficient campus energy savings and a number of sustainability projects involving faculty and students.

“We’re also working with planning students in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning to support their efforts in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rainwater competition,” says Hofmann. "Students have three projects identifying places on campus where we can improve the appearance, energy efficiency and sustainability.

"Of the three projects, our UC students were recognized this week with honorable mentions in two categories: the Masterplan Category for 'Integration of Stormwater Management and Resilience' and the Demonstration Project Category for 'Rehabilitating Underutilized Space.'

"We are extremely proud of their work and innovative ideas. I believe in all these efforts because it’s the right thing to do," adds Hofmann. 

UC Utilities 2020 industry recognition

UC Utilities 2020 recognition, all awarded by the Association of Energy Engineers:

  • 2020 Institutional Energy Management Award 
  • 2020 International Institutional Energy Management Award
  • 2020 Innovative Energy Project Award
  • Mike Hofmann was named 2020 Energy Manager of the Year 
  • 2020 Energy Project of the Year awarded by both the AEE and the International District Energy Association

Healthy mobility

UC's Bike Kitchen mechanics repair student's bike in their repair shop.

Trained student mechanics from all over campus work on Bearcat Bike Share and student, faculty and staff personal bicycles in UC's Bike Kitchen repair shop.

“Our Bike Kitchen is still very active and continues to encourage biking on campus,” says Hart. “They currently have specific hours for renting bikes through the Bearcat Bike Share program. And for those who have their own bikes, we have a bike repair service on the ground level in Daniels Hall where mechanics will repair your bikes when needed.”

As a result of the innovative design for bicycle transportation on campus, UC is a designated “Bike Friendly University” by the League of American Bicyclists, is recognized as a Sierra Club “Cool School” and is recognized by the Princeton Review in their Guide to Green Colleges.

View of Clifton Avenue bike path through the handlebars of a bike.

Community bike path along Clifton Avenue connects UC's campus to Ludlow Avenue and beyond.

Safe bike paths are woven all throughout UC’s campus, but a new Cincinnati citywide bike path effort now connects student bikers to local businesses off campus and around the city.

Other safe and healthy modes of transportation include


Featured image at top: View of UC's college of engineering facade through flowering plants on the green roof of UC's LCOB. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

UC | Sustainability

UC Sustainability represents the diverse and interdisciplinary sustainability movements at the University of Cincinnati. UC recognizes its role as a leader in sustainable practice, research and education and seeks to consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of its decisions. The university commits to incorporating the concept of sustainability into its academic and research programs, the design, operation and maintenance of its buildings and landscapes and its organizational structure and management.

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