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. 

Southern facade of UC's Calhoun Hall along Calhoun Street.

Newly remodeled Calhoun Hall. Photo/Andrew Higley UC Creative + Brand

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

Campus Recreation Center, Panorama
Campus on a sunny Spring day

UC's Main Street campus view. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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:

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.

Healthy wheels

25 bikes hanging along the wall and propped on the floor in UC's Bike Kitchen.

New Trek bikes in UC's Bike Share program. Photo/provided

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. 

Two men with tools repair bikes in UC's Bike Kitchen.

Trained student mechanics repair campus and personal bikes in UC's Bike Kitchen. Photo/provided

“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. 

Worldwide accolades

A plaque comprised of gold stars in a circle with the words Regional Award Winner AEE 2022 inside the frame.

UC won the 2023 Energy Manager of the Year award from the AEE (Association of Energy Engineers) for Mike Hofmann, director of UC Utilities Services for outstanding energy management.

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

“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

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.

Next Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation and impact. Our faculty, staff and students are saving lives, changing outcomes and bending the future in our city's direction. Next Lives Here.

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