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Join Bike to Work Week June 9-15

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Join Bike to Work Week 2012 by biking all or part of the way to work at least once during the week of June 9-15! This annual event attracted more than 200 participants last year who cycled over 4,500 miles. Register online for Team University of Chicago.

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The perks of participating:

  • Free pass to shower at Henry Crown the week of June 9 -15. Email Katie if interested in shower pass.
  • Free pizza party for the department with the highest percentage of cyclists. The department with the largest increase in participation from last year will also be recognized, as will one of the newly participating departments with the highest percentage of cyclists.
  • Bike Pit Stop on Tuesday, June 12th, from 6:30am - 9am outside CafĂ© 57 (1520 E. 57th Street)

    • Fuel up with free refreshments, including fruit, breakfast bars, coffee, and ice tea.
    • Free bike tune-ups from Blackstone Bicycle Works.
    • Enter a raffle for the chance to win a one-year Zipcar membership, UChicago bike gear, a month’s supply of Clif Bars, and a free latte art class for you and your friends!
    • Get cycling freebies from the Active Transportation Alliance.
    • We’ll also take a group photo the morning of the Bike Pit Stop—time TBD!Bike Pit Stop photo Op.jpg

Help spread the word about Bike to Work Week by posting this flyer in your department or office building. Please contact Katie with any questions about Bike to Work Week.

UChicago, as of late, you've been veering away from bottled water and diverting your fair share of food waste from landfills. Green Campus Initiative (GCI) has noticed many of your wonderful efforts, and we wanted to make sure everybody else took notice as well.

SASA show - sorting waste.jpg

Students compost their plates, cups, utensils, and leftover food at the South Asian Students Association Annual Cultural Show on Saturday, March 31.

Thus, we have worked with the Office of Sustainability and ORCSA staff to bring you a brand new Green Event Certification program! The aim of the program is simple: to raise awareness for Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) that are committed to reducing their environmental impacts, and to encourage other RSOs to do so as well.

How does certification work, you might wonder. Well, the process is simple! You perform a self-assessment of and we verify the amount of "green" actions your RSO has taken (in planning an event) by having you fill out a checklist. Each item on the checklist is worth a certain number of points, and if you accumulate 5 points, then you earn certification for your event! If your RSO has taken additional measures that are not mentioned on the checklist, you can detail those actions in a special "Innovation" section and receive points for those deeds as well.

Once you send your completed checklist to, we will verify your "greening" efforts and notify you of your certification achievement. As I mentioned previously, you only need to accumulate 5 points to achieve the SAGE Certified designation. However, if you go above and beyond (by accumulating 8 or more points), your event will receive the honor of SAGE Certified Plus!

After your event is certified, we will send you a special seal that you can display on event advertising and on your RSO website. As an added bonus, we will advertise your event on the GCI listhost and your RSO's greening efforts will be recorded on the Office of Sustainability's website.

So, what are you waiting for? Fill out that checklist and start receiving the recognition you deserve!

SASA show - compostables.jpg

Points towards certification can be earned by purchasing recyclable and compostable tableware (above) and composting all food waste at your event (below).

SASA show - compost bin.jpg

Points can also be earned by serving water in coolers, rather than offering bottled water (below).

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The Plant: a Swiss Army building

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Join us Thursday, April 26 for a tour of The Plant, a once abandoned meatpacking facility that is now being repurposed into a net-zero energy vertical farm and food business incubator. See below for details!

When people talk about the future of food, you could hear “I don’t really care,” or “WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!” or anything in between. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, you should check out The Plant. The Plant is a Chicago social enterprise trying something new in a very old building.

Now, allow me to regale you with the story of the Plant.

Let me give you a little snap shot of what goes on.


That’s right, The Plant looks like a big food web. Don’t worry, I didn’t read your mind, that’s what we thought too.

The Plant has a celebrated mantra of “The only thing that leaves is food.” We can add beer, fertilizer, jobs, and kombucha to that list, but you get the idea. What we see above is the manifestation of the old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Spent barley from the brewery is used to feed fish; the waste from the fish is fed to plants and used to generate gas, which powers and climate controls the entire building; and so much more.

These beautifully closed loops are made possible by a few major factors.

  1. Aquaponics By growing plants and fish together, you use up less resources. No more fertilizer purchases, the fish provide nitrates for the plants. The plants in turn clean the water by absorbing a lot of that waste, making the water habitable for the fish.
  2. Anaerobic gas digestion An anaerobic gas digester uses microbes to turn organic materials, such as food waste, into biogas and nutrient rich sludge. The biogas is then burned to produce steam. The steam then generates electricity and heats/cools the building. The CO2 from burning the biogas can then be pumped to the plants that use it to grow faster.
  3. Incubating new sustainable businesses This is the kicker. By incubating small sustainable businesses, it becomes possible to close the loops even further. The Plant currently features many artisanal food businesses, including a beer brewery, a bakery, a kombucha (fermented tea) brewery, and a mushroom farm. Spent grain is used to grow mushrooms, food waste from the commercial kitchen goes into the anaerobic digester, the algae and duckweed from the digester is fed to the fish, and more. When we all work together, we all win. In natural systems, there is no waste. Everything is reused and recycled by something else. Everything in a natural system is decomposed and provides sustenance for something else.

Though none of the technologies used are new, it is a rare treat to see them working together. You also don’t get many chances to tour a brewery, an aquaponics system, a mushroom farm, and restaurants at the same time.

Join us on a tour of The Plant during Earth Week, Thursday, April 26, 2:15-4:30 PM. Co-sponsored by Chicago Studies. Please send your RSVP to by Friday, April 20. Space is limited on this tour.

You don’t want to miss this.

Question: What do the following things/activities have in common: face painting, baked beans, pep band, football, and composting?

Answer: They were all part of UChicago Homecoming on October 22nd.

This year, composting made its debut at the University's annual Homecoming celebration, thanks to the combined efforts of UChicago Dining Aramark and Green Campus Initiative. Guests were encouraged to bring their plates, cups, utensils and any extra food to a compost station near the food service area. Sorting the compost was mostly a breeze, because all of the tableware was compostable, including the "plastic" cups made from--you guessed it!--corn.

After three hours of sorting compost and schmoozing with parents, student volunteers and UChicago Dining Aramark staff diverted approximately one third of the total waste at Homecoming that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Compost collection was generally a success, because in addition to posting ample amounts of signage, volunteers also coordinated with the Homecoming announcer to help advertise.

Next year, when Homecoming rolls around, event planners hope to make an even bigger impact by:

  1. Eliminating pesky condiment wrappers, which are not compostable, not recyclable, and not easy to spot when wrapped in a wad of napkins.
  2. Utilizing water coolers only. (Bottled water can be kept hidden away for emergencies.)
  3. Siting the compost station in a more visible area, or adding a second composting station.
  4. Eliminating trash cans altogether!

Homecoming 2011 was a big step in the right direction, and we can expect bigger, better, and greener things next year. A big thanks to UChicago Dining Aramark and GCI volunteers for making such an outstanding commitment to sustainability!

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GCI volunteer helps Homecoming attendee with composting.

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Homecoming also featured sustainable water coolers.

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A UChicago Dining Aramark Composting Station on Stagg Field.

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Bags of compost, diverted from landfills and destined to become certified organic compost!

Environment, Agriculture, & Food Seminar and Workshop Series

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EAF Seminar and Workshop Series: Winter 2011

Updated Schedule, January 26, 2011

Wed 1/19

12:30 - 2

EAF Seminar Speaker

Pam Cohen of Dix & Eaton, Erikson Institute and UChicago

Sustainability Matters: Food & Beverage Industry Examples

Haskell 101

Wed 1/26

12:30 - 2

EAF Seminar Speaker

John Felkner of NORC and U. Chicago

Spatial Economics and GIS for Environment, Agriculture and Food

Haskell 101



12:30 - 2              

EAF Seminar Speaker

Esther Bowen, Dept of Geophysical Sciences, UChicago

Eutrophication Impacts of Local Food Production in the Midwest

Haskell 101



4 - 5

EAF Workshop

Lyndon Valicenti, City of Chicago, Department of Environment

Chicago Urban Agriculture & New Zoning Rules

Cobb 115

Wed 2/16


4:30 - 7

Joint EAF/WGE Workshop

 The Urban Food Model: Perspectives on Economics, Science and Policy

(Panelists: Mari Gallagher, Pam Martin, TBA)

Franke Institute

Mon  2/28


4 - 5:30

EAF Workshop

Don Hanson, Argonne National Lab

Transportation Energy Demand in the Medium and Long Terms: Gasoline, Diesel, Biofuels, Natural Gas, and Electricity

Cobb 107




EAF Seminar Presentations

Students from the EAF research seminar will present their research results in a workshop setting

Haskell 101


Sustainability Walking Tour

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Thirty first years took advantage of the beautiful weather this past week by joining the first UChicago Sustainability Walking Tour which highlighted sustainable aspects and initiatives across campus. Highlights included recycles bike share stations, the LEED Gold Searle Laboratory, composting at campus dining halls and cafes, and the student-run Uncommon Garden.
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University's First E-waste Recycling Event a Huge Success!

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University and community members recycled nearly 23,000 lbs of e-waste and other items at our event on May 7th. The event was a partnership between the Office of Sustainability, Facilities Services, and the Office of Civic Engagement. Because there are few options for recycling e-waste on the South Side, the event was offered to the University community as an opportunity to responsibly dispose of difficult-to-recycle items. For more information on the event, click here.

recyclingevent-unloadingtruck.jpgA truck load of e-waste was collected at an area condominium association and was unloaded at the event.

recyclingevent-styrofoam.jpg691 pounds of Styrofoam were collected.

52 of the above computer monitors were dropped off for recycling, in addition to 15 LCD monitors.

recyclingevent-travelmug.jpgFax machines, watches, telephones and cords were also recycled--in addition to several pick axes!

recyclingevent-dropoffcontainers.jpgDrop-off containers, which were placed at Ratner, SSA, Pick Hall, and Harper Memorial Libaray throughout the week, filled up quickly with e-waste from folks who couldn't make the event.

recyclingevent-couch.jpg"Excuse me," said six-year-old Gabriel, "we'd like to recycle this couch."

recyclingevent-loading.jpgAt the conclusion of the event, pallets with 4' x 4' x 4' boxes of recyclables were loaded into a 52'-long truck. Recyclables were then transported to Intercon Solutions' Chicago Heights processing facility, where all materials and their components were taken apart my hand and securely recycled.

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