Sustainability Interest Survey

Click here to complete the Sustainability Interest Google Form for Monday, January 22nd. 

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Old Classrooms, New Style

The brutalist architecture of The University of Illinois at Chicago, designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, adds an interesting feeling to the campus with the large concrete structures, concrete hallways, concrete sculptures, and concrete classrooms. In order to attract more students to the University,  UIC should use the $3 sustainability fee to renovate existing classrooms and hallways from plain, dark concrete rooms to create classrooms of the future.

Starting next year, UIC will begin construction off of Harrison Street, removing a commuter parking lot and replacing it with much needed dormitories and classrooms. By creating new housing and removing commuter lots, UIC is transforming from a commuter school into a livable community. A great way to attract potential students to UIC is to show the great academic environment the new classrooms create. In Thomas Beckham Hall, the classrooms are brand new and help create a welcoming environment for learning. The only problem is that Thomas Beckham Hall is the only building on the east side of campus that has that environment.


Reducing the extremely dark tint on the windows can add natural light, which in turn reduces power consumption from the overhead lights., a website with information on lighting poses a potential sustainability issue associated with the current tubular lights in UIC classrooms:

While these lights will save a bit of money in comparison to incandescent lights, the risks involved with them do not make them a safe alternative to incandescent bulbs. In fact, they are worse for the environment than extra energy expenditure because of the toxic metals and gasses they contain.

In addition, electronic motion sensors in classrooms can help reduce power consumption by shutting off lights while classrooms are unoccupied.  Painting the hallways and removing lockers creates a more open and welcoming environment rather than the dark industrial look of the hallways. Adding real desks to classrooms that have tabletops the size of a sheet of paper will help with students who use electronic devices to take notes. Many furniture producers are environmentally conscious, which benefits the school.  These small changes have a big impact on the campus as it will look more attractive for potential students and more useful to current students alike.



Discussion Day: Where to Reinforce, Where to Retreat?

The issues of climate change and its effect on natural disasters in the New England area is discussed in this article. Problems that never use to effect these areas before, like flooding and sea level rises, are becoming increasingly dangerous to those living there. The article also talks about ways in which to rebuild from disasters and to adapt to environmental change, and what steps we can take to build cities that are more resilient to these issues. Resiliency is one of the topics from the article that were stressed because of all the lives it could save. It means to recover quickly, and to also adapt to reduce those vulnerabilities. Not only physically but economically, how is the act of rebuilding, redesigning, and adapting with resiliency going to help these regions stay safe. Also consider what factors need to be taken into account to benefit the area as a whole, and the individuals living there.

Discussion Day: “Toward Climate Resilience: A Framework and Principles for Science-Based Adaptation”

Consider some major natural disasters that have occurred in recent years with relation to climate change (eg. Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, etc.) After reading the 15 principles/ideas presented in the article, what do you think local governments could have done before those disasters occurred to mitigate the effects and increase their preparedness? In addition, comment on what principles presented by the author of climate adaptation you feel will be most effective and will have a significant impact on our future working towards climate resilience. How can they be revised or altered?

Discussion Day: ON TO 2050 Preview Report

Chicago boasts an increasingly diverse workforce, steadily decreasing unemployment rate, and diverse economy specializing in service-based industries. As a result, it contains many promising factors that would warrant a continually increasing population. In order to stimulate continuous population growth, Chicago must make changes to current governing practices and increase city revenue. The ONTO 2050 preview lists 5 alternative futures that will influence the outcome of Chicago’s future population — if addressed properly. As the city continually improves, so will the quality of life. However, not all residents are well equipped for future change (or even the cost of it.)  Therefore, is it possible to bring about necessary social, technological, and economic changes in Chicago without jeopardizing the well-being of low-income residents? Why or why not?

Introducing the Tesla Semi Truck.


In a time where emissions regulation is more critical than ever before, Tesla is leading in the way we innovate towards a cleaner future. When we think of traditional semi trucks, we are brought to the thought of large, gas-guzzling, polluting machines – not really the staple of an environmental shift. But, Tesla took the idea of electric cars and applied it to a larger vehicle. The company simply asked the question of “why hasn’t someone done this yet?” “Why hasn’t someone tackle one of the biggest exhaust/emissions problems by starting with the easiest target – the truck?” So, they did just that.

Introducing the Tesla Semi Truck. The next big thing in green innovation.


According Zac Estrada of The Verge, “Musk appeared Thursday night in Hawthorne, California, to show off his company’s newest vehicle, promising a range in the neighborhood of 500 miles for the Class 8 heavy-duty vehicle. Earlier reports pegged the range between 200 and 300 miles, but Musk delighted in besting those numbers in his remarks, including his claim that the truck has a 400-mile range with 30 minutes of charging. Musk had also promised self-driving abilities, and Tesla says this delivers at least semi-autonomous capability” (Estrada, 1).

“After the reveal, it’s clear Tesla hopes its innovative packaging and approach will resonate with truck drivers and fleet managers who are tired of the way the vehicles have been designed for decades. After all, it won’t be alone in the electric truck market. Companies with experience in large trucks, such as Cummins and Daimler, have already announced plans for electrified models, with immense pressure coming from cities and countries anxious to reduce air pollution in heavily populated areas” (Estrada, 1).


Tesla has curated a heavy-power vehicle capable of providing clean transit for over 500 miles on a single, 30-minute charge. This is something unmatched, but will eventually face competition. The Verge made it clear that Tesla has now paved the way for the adoption of this new product. Companies across the globe will be empowered by large cities to push these vehicles onto the road. In order to combat pollution and create a more efficient world, this may be the right step in that direction.

For more information on the Tesla Semi Truck, explore the following links:


$15 billion dollar bees

Image result for honeybee

Source: Wikipedia

Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015. While for some people this may not seem significant, and some instances where the fear of bees brought on a silent cheer, the effects are enormous and sobering. Bees are pollinators, which means their decline is a real threat not only to agricultural sustainability and food security, but to ecosystem health and biodiversity as a whole.

In 2014, the White House cited that honey bees citing that honey bees contribute more than $15 billion to the United States economy and stressed the economic challenge posed by declining pollinator populations,. President Obama communicated a federal strategy for 2015 to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators. Scientists and beekeepers knew the importance of the pollinators decline, but the message needed to be broader. Companies like Whole Foods and Burts Bee’s began educating consumers and Häagen-Dazs’ donated more than $1 million to research.

The link was made between bee decline and neonicotinoids – an insecticide chemical that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. The issue also sparked action against companies who produce and carry them. In 2014, activists targeted Lowe’s and Home Depot demanded they stop selling the pesticides. That same year, Home Depot complied and Lowe’s followed suit in 2015.

This is an example of federal power policy promoting positive national change. It also speaks to the the intersection of federal, corporate and citizens advocating begetting policy change resulting in enormous ripple effects, including those of corporate and consumer behavior.





Sprawl, health and energy consumption

Image result for chicago suburbs sprawl cookie cutter garage

Source: TRG Communities

Two-car garages facing the street, big box stores, parking lots and chain restaurants. What am I describing? Chicago-land suburbs, of course – along with thousands upon thousands of other suburbs scattered all over the United States. This is sprawl.

Decades ago many people’s life goals included buying a nice house in the suburbs. Today we know that sprawl causes many problems like individual health issues like obesity and other weight related illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, social inequity, job loss, environmental degradation, and massive energy spending. Climate change and the need to reduce energy consumption is one important factor in attempting to reverse sprawl, and instead approach the way we build and live our lives differently from the suburban lifestyle so many still lead. A world without sprawl is more compact, more walkable, less car dependent and more transit-served and diverse. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. Reversing sprawl and design cities, towns and villages with this in mind will help to reduce our overall GHG emissions and in turn our overall public health, including the health of our planet.

Fixing the issue sprawl focuses on specific design to change the built environment and policy changes. Possible responses would include government subsidies and funding priorities, market incentives, transportation systems and new urban design plans.



Carbon Credits

As we have learned, climate change solutions are easier said than done. How do we get the entire world on the same team in regards to fighting climate change while preserving the country’s best interest. One of the biggest problems with climate change is the output large corporations have during their business practices with little to nothing set up to reduce their footprint on the earth. What these companies need is an incentive or an easier way to help fight climate change while keeping their business running. This is where the carbon credit system comes in that was first drafted up at the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Carbon credits work like modern day credit cards where you can continue buying stuff on credit and pay it back later. The one thing about carbon credits is many corporations and large businesses are running out of time and need to pay back what they did to the earth now. When you purchase a carbon credit as a company you are investing in sustainable projects that happen around the world. The projects that are part of this program get funding for their sustainable project and the corporation gets to write off that they are offsetting their footprint by a given amount. This allows the business to keep practicing what they do while investing in other projects. They do not have to make cuts or open up different sectors of their company just to fight climate change.

The carbon credits do work but of course it is not an ideal permanent fix to climate change. There are certain companies that will always be pumping out toxins into the environment that are far worse than buying some carbon credits to fix them. But companies big and small that want to make a change without reorganizing their business benefit from this program. One of the biggest successes in carbon credits is allowing the funding of small scale projects. Projects that could lead to a long term solution have a way of getting funding that means something and this could continue to push their project forward.