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Sustainability Initiatives

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The United Nations recognizes the definition of sustainable development as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To practice “sustainability” we must explore and support a balance between economic and environmental needs and social fairness, in a dynamically changing world.


Roosevelt University’s existing and new buildings are held to internationally-recognized LEED™ standards, which are superior to those established by local Chicago and suburban building codes.

Two campus buildings are LEED-certified in downtown Chicago near Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park: the new Wabash “vertical campus” (2012) earned LEED Gold and the new Goodman Center Fieldhouse (2013) earned LEED Silver.


A 32-story state-of-the-art skyscraper, the ninth tallest University building in the world, earned LEED Gold certification (2012) and SERF Certification (2013). The building is 414,585 square feet. Sustainability features include, but are not limited to:

  • Natural "daylighting",  on three sides of the building, reduces energy use and improves learning, achievement and productivity
  • Occupancy sensors turn lights off when rooms are not in use
  • Heating and air conditioning systems perform 25% better than ASHRAE standards
  • Nearly 8,000 square feet of green roof on 5 floors reduces the City’s heat island effect  
  • Advanced building recycling system on every floor
  • Food pulper system utilizes recycled water and reduces solid food waste by ~ 80%, with the waste then being composted
  • Indoor bike parking provides for alternative transportation and safe storage
  • Use of sustainable materials in construction
  • For more, please see our Wabash Building guide.


LEED Silver: Goodman Center

The Goodman Center, across Congress Avenue from the Wabash Building, seats 500 spectators and is 27,834 square feet. Sustainability features include, but are not limited to:

  • Utilizes compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting
  • 18% energy savings beyond those prescribed by ASHRAE
  • 30% reduction in potable water consumption
  • 3,500 square foot green roof which reduces the City’s heat island effect
  • For more, please see our Goodman Center guide .

Food & Dining

Surprisingly, commercial food preparation generates a substantial carbon and water footprint by consuming large amounts of energy, generating tons of waste, and using a substantial amount of water. Roosevelt University’s Dining Service addresses all of these issues and aspires to be a socially- and environmentally-responsible food service operation.

Growing Food On-Site

In 2013, the University began conducting tests on its Wabash Building 5th floor rooftop to determine the types of herbs, vegetables and fruits best suited to grow there. Modular containers were outfitted with lightweight soil and fertilizer, and planted with seed. Within that first year, 22 pounds of vegetables and herbs were harvested from the rooftop and shared with the Dining Center. In 2014, that number increased to 33 pounds, and then to 37.5 pounds in 2015. In 2016, production became more focused on herbs and kale, along with some arugula, collard greens, and Swiss chard.

Energy Efficient Appliances

  • Air is conditioned prior release into the atmosphere through avtec EcoArch hoods.
  • Exhaust hoods operate only when they sense heat and smoke, saving up to 40% in gas and electricity usage per year.
  • Hobart Vulcan dishwasher is EnergyStar rated, reducing water energy use 50% over comparable models.

Food Waste Recycling

  • Pre and post-consumer food waste is composted through a SOMAT waste disposal system, located behind the scenes in the McCormick Dining Center. Once collected and taken offsite, it is converted into compost, with some making it to the Schaumburg Campus to be used in the community garden.
  • Most carryout food packaging is compostable (just check for the label), contributing to a closed circle of use.

Responsible Food Service Partners

Roosevelt's Food Service partners with suppliers which follow environmentally sound and socially-just practices, such as:

Testa Produce
  • Operates a LEED certified produce facility supplying locally- and sustainably-grown and organic produce
  • Has pledged to support sustainable farming as a founding member of Greener Fields Together™, the food service’s first national farm-to-fork sustainability program in the U.S.
  • Operates a fleet of biodiesel and electric trucks
  • Generates their own wind and solar power
  • Collects rainwater for reuse at their plant
  • Testa Produce has also provided RU with a paid internship position starting in 2013 and spanning to 2018.
Metropolis Coffee

A local micro-roaster which purchases beans from farmers at fair-trade prices. The Metropolis Philosophy states that “Our coffee aesthetic is rooted in the belief that great coffee comes from a line of respect beginning with the farmers and their respect for their land. We, in turn, respect the farmers by paying fair prices for their harvest, and respect our customers by taking great care in the roasting and brewing our coffees, and in blending our teas.”

Mahoney Environmental

Provides waste-free oil disposal by regenerating oil into other products, including biodiesel.

Green Labs

With goals to reduce disposable laboratory waste, generate less chemical waste, use fewer harmful reagents, save money on chemicals, and upgrade equipment to more energy efficient models where possible, Roosevelt University’s Green Laboratory Initiative demonstrates how a laboratory renovation can make a difference in just a few years.

In incorporating environmentally sustainable products for use in the lab, Roosevelt accomplished the following:

  • Converted to Millipore water purification systems (figure 1) rather than distillation systems for the production of deionized laboratory-grade water. Distillation systems require large amounts of strong acids to clean, are wasteful of water, and require many hours of maintenance per week.
  • Purchased a MARS microwave system (figure 2) for chemical reactions, which allows the chemistry program to develop educational experiments that are more eco-friendly.  Fewer reagents and harmful solvents are needed with such a system, which reduces chemical waste.
  • Enrolled in an Echo program for the recycling of maintenance consumables.
  • Upgraded to biodegradable gloves for use in the biology labs.
  • Began a program to recycle nitrile gloves (required for use in chemistry labs) through RightCycle.
  • Replaced old refrigerators and freezers (used for chemical and reagent storage) with new energy efficient models.
  • Replaced flammable cabinets with newer models that are more tightly sealed, which reduces the amount of chemical vapors released into the air. Vapors are trapped in the cabinet and absorbed by activated carbon absorbents.
  • Purchased new spill trays for the cabinets, which are made from 100% recycled polyethylene.
  • Purchased new absorbent pads for spill kits (figure 3), which are LEED certified and made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • A 42 person research teaching laboratory, filled with green features, was completed in December 2015 for the College of Pharmacy.

Renewable Energy

  • Since 2012, Roosevelt University has been purchasing renewable energy in an effort to reduce carbon emissions while supporting the renewable energy sector. 
  • In 2016, our Residence Hall laundry facility, in the Wabash Building, received a Renewable Energy Certificate which offset 312,809 pounds of carbon emitted from its equipment.
  • In participating in the USEPA Green Power Partnership, RU offsets energy consumption by a certain percent through purchasing, producing, and/or utilizing solar, wind, geothermal, biogas or eligible biomass and low impact hydroelectric sourced power.

Retrofit Chicago

Retrofit Chicago is a citywide effort spearheaded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to promote energy efficiency in the City of Chicago.  Roosevelt University is a participant in the Commercial Buildings Initiative component of the program.  This means Roosevelt University has committed to:

  • Reduce energy use by at least 20% within five years of joining the program
  • Track and share energy efficiency progress through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager
  • Serve as an ambassador to other buildings interested in saving energy

Roosevelt joined the program in 2014, with our goal of reaching a 20% reduction for the Auditorium Building, by the year 2019.

Voluntary Energy Curtailment Program

Roosevelt University participates in voluntary energy curtailments with PJM (grid supplier) and EnerNOC (energy software). This readies RU to help reduce brown-outs in Chicago. By only using the energy needed and reducing use at peak times, building automation systems at Roosevelt’s Chicago and Schaumburg Campuses are key to continually reducing energy and greenhouse gas emissions. 

In participating in this program, during peak energy use times, RU may be called by our utility providers to be asked reduce our energy demands. We accomplish this through an array of methods, including first “pre-cooling” our buildings so they will remain comfortable during the energy reduction. Then, non-essential systems are shut down for a short timeframe. From a cost savings perspective, we receive rebate checks based on our test results, and this money gets put into our University “Green Revolving Fund”. From a sustainability perspective, we are able to lower our carbon footprint and induce behavioral modification through education.

City of Chicago Benchmarking

Since 2013, the City of Chicago has required all commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet of floor space to annually benchmark and report energy use.  For Roosevelt University, both the Wabash Building and the Auditorium Building are required to benchmark.  We utilize the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to track energy use, and a report is submitted to the City of Chicago annually. 
Green Purchasing

Purchasing across Roosevelt University incorporates responsible practices such as:

  • Using 100% recycled post-consumer paper
  • FSA certified wood products
  • Green cleaning supplies
  • Reduced packaging
  • Low- or no-VOC finishes
  • Caulks and mastics (used to glue down floor coverings), low- or no-VOC
  • EnergyStar rated lighting and LEDs
  • Lighting control sensors to turn off lights when not in use
  • LEED-certified new construction
  • Regular reassessment of energy efficiency across the University

Roosevelt also purchases green office supplies whenever possible, reuses boxes and equipment, and purchases refurbished furniture.

Water and Sustainable Landscaping


Like most of suburbia in the Midwest, the communities within the Chicago region rapidly urbanized in the last half of the 20th century by paving over farmlands, which had once been prairies, and draining wetlands, nature’s water treatment systems. Much of the land's surface is now impervious, and water is now intensively managed at great cost by canals, retention ponds, sewers, and a huge network of wastewater treatment facilities. But RU is working to put less stress on water resources through an evolving ethic of water conservation.

Schaumburg Campus:
  • Prairie—what was once acres of turf grass and previous headquarters to Pure Oil (also known as Unocal), has undergone unrecognizable transformation since 2010. About 9 acres of turf grass have been converted to native prairie habitat to include a biodiverse detention basin, which undergoes periodic, controlled burns, and a rain garden.
  • Drip irrigation—installed in 2014, and used in the community garden plots.
  • Permeable pavers—in 2013, a five-year permeable paver replacement project began at the Schaumburg Campus, allowing improved water infiltration and reduced runoff.

Chicago Campus:
  • Green roofs—8,000 square feet of green roofs capture rain and pollutants and the plantings transpire moisture back to the atmosphere, reducing runoff and pollution at the ground level.
  • Plumbing—the LEED Gold Wabash Building saves more than 20% potable water than Chicago code requires, through use of aerators, low-flow pumping, and plumbing fixtures. The LEED Silver Goodman Center field house saves more than 30% potable water than required by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992.
  • Food Services—achieves 50% water and energy use savings though use of Energy Star-rated rinse technology.
  • The Department of Biological, Chemical and Physical Sciences and the College of Pharmacy replaced wasteful and polluting distillation systems with Millipore water purification systems eliminating harmful chemicals in water and saving energy.

Sustainable Landscapes

Prairie Restoration at the Schaumburg Campus

As of 2012, Roosevelt has replaced nearly 9 of its 17 acres of impermeable, water-consumptive lawn with native prairie grasses, rain gardens, and a detention basin. As a result, native prairie has taken hold and is a living reminder of how our state was: 60% prairie at one time. Today less than 1/100th of 1% remains. To experience the landscape and wildlife which met settlers in the 1800s Roosevelt created a prairie walk measuring just over ½ mile. The prairie is a haven for wildlife of all shapes and sizes. So come visit, bring a lunch, and immerse yourself in a bygone Illinois. Who knows, if you keep your eyes peeled you might be visited by some of the prairies inhabitants such as the endangered Hines Dragonfly or a family of Goldfinches.

Biodiversity Support

Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus has a lot to offer in supporting biodiversity. The campus has received Arboretum Accreditation 1, is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, is recognized as a Tree Campus USA, and is a certified Monarch Waystation. Beginning in 2011, the RUrbanPioneers Community Garden nestled into the campus and has tripled in size and output since its founding. This ongoing local food effort advances sustainability by including drip irrigation, as well as soil improvements through the addition of compost. More recently, RU has undergone an arboretum improvement and installed two bee hives:

Arboretum Improvement

In the spring of 2016, RU’s Schaumburg Campus had over 60 dead trees removed, with many having suffered from the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Instead of planting 60 of the same trees, we took a different approach: We have been planting trees that are native to this area, that will add biodiversity to the campus, and some of which encourage pollinators as well. To date, the total number of new species that we have added is about 15. During our 2016 Arbor Day Observance (which we held on Earth Day), we had children from the Bright Horizons Daycare (located on campus) help plant an Ohio Buckeye tree.

Bee Hives 

In the summer of 2016, two bee hives were installed on the Schaumburg Campus in order to add to campus biodiversity. The company Sweet Beginnings LLC., a subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, did the installation, maintains the hives, and harvests the honey to turn it into sellable products. Sweet Beginnings, LLC. “offers full-time transitional jobs to citizens returning from incarceration in a green industry—the production and sales of all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey under the beeloveTM brand. The company manages apiaries (bee farms) throughout Chicagoland including in North Lawndale, at O’Hare International Airport, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Trailside Museum.”

Urban Habitat Supports Biodiversity, Too 

The design of our Wabash Campus and Goodman Center buildings support local biodiversity in a two-fold manner: as part of an urban environment and for being situated in a Great Lakes region migration corridor. Their green roofs provide habitat for native vegetation, insects, and related microbes, as well as birds who find unexpected resting places, nesting support, and food sources there. Additionally, the mostly glass exterior of the Wabash building is designed with angles and patterns which help to reduce bird collisions in a lakeshore flyway. 


Have you ever thought of your trash as a social justice issue? If we continue producing, using, and trashing, then our environment and communities will pay the price. Here at Roosevelt, social justice is our mission. By being responsible with our waste, we stand by our mission and create a more sustainable community.


Pre- and post-consumer food and packaging waste from Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus McCormick Dining Center is sorted and put through a Somat Pulper Machine, which literally grinds the compostable material into a “slurry” which is piped to a waste area. Water is then removed, and the “slurry” is picked up by the Chicago Resource Center where it is then composted. The compost, on several occasions, has then been obtained for the Schaumburg Campus community garden.  

Electronic Recycling

  • In 2014, RU started using VetTech, a program of the Keeling Family Foundation, for electronic, or e-waste, recycling. VetTech is “dedicated to training and preparing veterans for the IT career field while simultaneously collecting and recycling/re-purposing E-waste.”
  • Special recyclables, to include batteries, cell phones, lightbulbs, toner/ink cartridges, and more, can be taken to Campus Planning and Operations at the Chicago Campus (Wabash Basement Room #B16) or the Mail Room (Room #101) at the Schaumburg Campus.

Regular Recycling

Roosevelt received an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant for recycling receptacles for each space in the Wabash Buildings. Already, the residents and visitors of the building have achieved a 40% waste diversion rate.

  • Recycling is integrated into daily operations across campuses. Paper, cardboard, books, bottles, cans and plastics (Types 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 7) are recycled every day in bins across campus.
  • In 2015 alone, according to Independent Recycling Services, a third-party source, Roosevelt’s recycling initiatives from two out of four campus buildings:
    • Saved 3,029.65 trees
    • Conserved 1,247,501.5 gallons of water
    • Saved 712,858 kwh of energy
    • recycled a total of 356,429 lbs of material
    • And more.
  • The University is always looking for new and creative ways to reuse and recycle, too:
    • Mattresses on campus are recycled by stripping the pillow top covers and replacing the underlayment. This not only saves mattresses from the landfill, it’s more sanitary than standard sleep systems—and less expensive, too.
    • During Earth Month (April) in 2016, a Reuse Art Competition encouraged people to create art pieces made out of only reused items. To get a glimpse of these unique pieces of art, please visit our Reuse Art Competition Blog
    • In May of 2016, RU partnered with Savers, a thrift retailer, for the “RU Move Out Donation Drive”. In doing so, RU donated 960 pounds of hard and soft goods that can be resold (ex: clothes, accessories, books, other household goods) and raised $171.30. This initiative prevented useable items from being thrown out during student move out. See our blog for more details.

Wabash Bike Room

A Bike Room—which provides indoor bicycle parking and storage—was included in the design and construction of the Wabash Building. In the past, this secure storage facility has allowed for 67 users, using a system of assigned spots. In an effort to increase use, assigned spots were eliminated and room capacity was increased to 75 users in the spring of 2016. Additionally, a stronger Bike Room Usage Policy was created, a bike pump was installed, and RU bike stickers are now given to users to place on their bikes. Shower facilities are also available on the 5th floor of the Wabash Building.

This amenity is free to all RU students, faculty, and staff. However, space is limited. To register for the room, fill out this digital form (if space allows) and read through the Bike Room Usage Policy. [RQ1] Once submitted, you must visit Campus Planning and Operations in Wabash Basement Room #B16 to pick up your bike sticker.


In spring of 2014, Roosevelt University started offering discounted DIVVY memberships to the RU Community. DIVVY is a bike share program that began in Chicago through the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). It makes bike riding in Chicago easy, fun, and affordable. For details on how students, faculty, and staff may utilize their different discount rates, please read through our guide.

Bike2Campus Week

As of spring 2014, Roosevelt has participated in the Bike2Campus Week competitions. This effort is led by the Chicagoland Network for Sustainability in Higher Education (CNSHE) “Bike Group”: which includes Roosevelt University staff and students, who also help to organize the event. Participants bike to campus and earn perks by recording their efforts online and posting biking photos via social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram.

One University wins an ultimate trophy through participation. Several students, faculty, and staff at Roosevelt have also won individual prizes for their efforts. This event used to take place in spring (2014 and 2015) but has now been moved to fall (starting fall of 2015). Our hope is to get the RU community excited about biking and sustainable/alternative modes of transportation, and to participate in this week-long event.