UC inspires Earth Day innovation all year long
Ongoing sustainability efforts support award-winning campus
As the world honors the 53rd celebration of Earth Day on April 22, the University of Cincinnati racks up sustainability recognition on a national level.
“While UC buildings currently hold LEED Silver and Gold certification across our uptown and medical campuses, ongoing environmental, social and economic impacts of sustainability are considered into all our infrastructure decisions,” says Alexandra Roman Gonzalez, coordinator in UC’s Office of Sustainability.
Among UC's LEED Silver certified structures on campus, the list now includes the newly remodeled Calhoun Hall student residence building, which boasts 13 residential floors in a towering community space that comfortably houses nearly 800 students.
In the revamped space, each floor features a light-filled common area, allowing students to socialize, collaborate and study together, while enjoying the external views from all angles where natural light warms the widened residential corridors.
Three other UC buildings currently hold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification including the CARE/Crawley College of Medicine awarded in 2008, the Allied Health Sciences Building in 2020 and now the Carl H. Lindner College of Business in 2021.
“Our award-winning buildings and landscapes are designed to reduce their environmental impact by creating sustainable green roofs, efficient bioswale water management systems and windows that help keep buildings cool in the summer and retain heat in the winter,” says Roman Gonzalez. “Our Sustainability + Climate Action Plan continues to incorporate, promote and support sustainable behaviors, including those around climate change."
A living laboratory
To keep the campus humming in eco-friendly fashion, UC’s Office of Sustainability manages a diversity of programs that seek to educate, engage and empower a culture of sustainability, including:
- Environmental Literacy Certificate Program
- UC Garden
- Research Centers
- Green Purchasing
- Water Management
- Move-In/Move-Out waste diversion efforts
- Sustainability Awards — Awarded during Earth Week each year to a faculty member, a student, a staff member and research achievement for doing exemplary work in sustainability and encouraging all at UC to further a culture of sustainability while also supporting academic excellence, urban impact and fostering innovation. The 2023 UC Sustainability Awards and Community Partner Showcase featured keynote speaker Tisha Livingston, UC alumna and co-founder of the Tristate produce gem 80 Acres Farms.
And, when it takes a little extra to accomplish what’s next, there’s always the Bearcat Pantry & Resource Center to keep student innovation buzzing.
Whether you traverse Uptown campus by foot, on two wheels or four, there are swift and healthy choices, including new bike rentals from UC’s Bike Share Program.
“Because of the university’s 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.” says Roman Gonzalez.
“We just increased our number of campus rental bikes this year from 23 to 47 after purchasing an additional 25 new bikes. Prior to the new bikes, the demand for bike rentals was so high we had a wait list of more than 100 students. The bikes can be rented by anyone with a Bearcat card for a week at a time through the Bearcat Bike Share program.
“And for those who have their own bikes, we have a Bike Kitchen repair service on the ground level in Daniels Hall where trained mechanics can help you repair your bikes when needed.”
Safe bike paths are not only woven throughout UC’s campus, but a Cincinnati citywide bike path created in 2021 now connects student bikers to local businesses off campus and around the city.
For a quick shuttle across campus — day or night — check out UC’s shuttle and NightRide schedules.
And when you need a car, UC has partnered with Zipcar to bring self-service, on-demand car sharing to the area.
Easy being Gold when you're green
UC was awarded a STARS Gold rating in March by the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for how efficiently the university addresses the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability.
(STARS), which stands for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.
UC earned a Gold rating — valid through April 2026 — for building a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community, especially in the areas of academics, engagement, operations and planning and administration.
UC's acclaim on the world stage now includes the AEE's award for the 2022 Energy Manager of the Year in Region III.
The AEE (Association of Energy Engineers) honors members and institutions from around the globe from its over 18,000 members for the most efficient use and management of energy and utilities.
UC's award went to Mike Hofmann, director of UC Utilities Services for his management of energy across all UC campuses. UC Utilities was also recognized for the Region III “Institution of The Year” for its continued success on the energy management front.
UC signed an agreement with Mid American Energy Services (MES) to purchase a more sustainable green power — produced by wind turbines found throughout the Midwest and eastern United States — to provide 100% of the electric energy used at all university regional campuses and off campus buildings in the greater Cincinnati area. This includes UC’s Blue Ash, Clermont, Reading and Victory Parkway campuses and all university buildings not served by the main campus central utility plant.
UC’s Utilities Department completed the contract last fall with MES, a Berkshire Hathaway company, which will reduce the cost of powering the regional campuses by more than $250,000 annually. The procurement of the renewable energy is projected to reduce the university’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 31,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), or approximately 18% of the annual emissions.
Other green initiatives
- 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
“Overall, UC’s commitment to sustainability is an excellent example of how educational institutions can lead the way in promoting sustainable practices and creating a more eco-friendly future,” adds Roman Gonzalez.
Featured image at top: Students enjoy playing frisbee on UC's Sigma Sigma Commons. Photo/Andrew Higley UC Marketing + Brand
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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