Mission and Values > Programs > Sustainability at DePaul > What is DePaul Doing?

What is DePaul doing?

Sustainability initiatives in action throughout the university: ​

Land Use & Buildings

  • DePaul has been awarded LEED Gold status for three new buildings and LEED Silver status for one new building on Lincoln Park Campus.
  • DePaul is committed to designing all future new construction projects to be LEED certified.
  • Retro- Commissioning audits and projects are implemented on a scheduled basis at both Lincoln Park and Loop Campus to improve operating efficiencies that will result in energy savings.
  • All interior renovation projects are developed in accordance with the City of Chicago’s Department of the Environment code, with all scope and specification details geared toward sustainability, improved operational efficiencies and energy saving.
  • Green roofs have been installed at several buildings with more to follow as funding becomes available.
  • All materials used in landscape maintenance operation are organic and free of toxic pesticides.  Propane driven landscape maintenance equipment is also employed, helping to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Bulk cleaning materials are certified environmentally friendly or “green”.
  • Paint and carpet specifications have been revised to low VOC reduce the introduction of toxic substances into the air steam.
  • Operation and maintenance programs are developed to assure optimum efficiency of all primary plant equipment with the goal of continued energy saving and reduced carbon emission.
  • Vacant land parcels are in use for Urban Farming programs, with produce grown on site donated or sold locally.

Energy Efficiency

  • Major operating plant equipment is being replaced utilizing high efficiency rated equipment. This applies to the heating/cooling plants, ventilation equipment and other major infrastructure.
  • The continued installation and improvement of a building automation system allows for more efficient operation of plant equipment.
  • All primary lighting systems have been retrofitted to high efficiency ballasts and energy saving fluorescent lamps. Wherever possible, incandescent and flood lamps have been replaced by CFLs.
  • Solar lighting systems have been installed at key exterior locations on campus, with more to follow in the future.
  • DePaul has recently installed solar lighting at two locations on Lincoln Park Campus. Solar arrays and collectors are powering a significant number of exterior security light fixtures. DePaul is committed to additional solar installations in the future.
  • DePaul is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Challenge and has completed in excess of $6 million in energy related projects in the new millennium, focusing mainly on lighting and hvac system retrofits.
  • Building temperatures have been set higher in the summer and lower in cold months. During the holiday break most buildings are kept at 55° (for freeze protection). This results in significant energy savings.
  • DePaul is purchasing five percent of its electrical energy requirement from renewable resources.
  • DePaul recently finished several mechanical equipment upgrades- with new equipment in place that uses less energy and reduces carbon footprint. Achieved this with rebate funding for Commonwealth Edison.


  • DePaul is a major user of the CTA’s U-Pass Program.  Each undergraduate student is provided with a bus/rail pass as part of their tuition and fee package. This program allows an unlimited use of CTA buses and trains throughout the entire network.  A typical academic year has DePaul students averaging 1.7 million transit rides.  This  level of use keeps many cars off the streets, which results in a significant reduction in carbon footprint.
  • Several car-sharing programs are housed on campus to provide students and staff with energy efficient vehicles to lease for anywhere from several hours to one or several weeks.
  • Biking to and around campus and beyond has become more friendly with an increase of on-campus bike parking racks and spaces to over 1,000…the addition of several bike sharing program stations near campus, and Campus Recreation’s bike rental program- which makes bikes available to students for up to an entire day at low cost.
  • Public Safety and Facility Operations have a number of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets with more to be purchased in the future.

Dining & Housing

DePaul’s food service partner, Chartwells, continues to work to bring even more sustainable features to the food service operation. Current practices include:

  •  Continuing the transition from Styrofoam to molded fiber paper and corn based carry out containers along with other plant-based packaging.
  • Utilizing china plates and stainless utensils for dine-in patrons.
  • Donating  products that remain at the end of the day to several local homeless shelters and pantries.
  • Featuring socially and ecologically certified coffee products.
  • “Meatless Monday’s”… a program promoted to have an exponential effect on the environment.
  • Serving humane cage-free eggs.
  • Introducing “Trayless Tuesday’s” to help minimize patron food waste.
  • Buying local products to support family farming and improve sustainability. Chartwells currently partners with over 2,000 family farmers.
  • Filtering oil and grease product which is then sent off site to either bio-diesel plants or for use as other products.
  • Providing fresh yogurt and milk that is free of artificial growth hormones.
  • Specifying all food service area renovation and equipment replacement operations  utilizing high efficiency and environmentally friendly product.
Housing Services efforts have included:
  • Providing all student rooms with recycling containers in addition to the main receptacles location in each residence hall.
  • Sponsoring recycling fairs and competitions in the residence halls that are geared toward encouraging and improving recycling habits
  • Sponsoring programs and competitions geared toward the reduction of energy consumption.
  • Coordinates the efforts of the “Green Team” to help promote sustainable practices and programs in the residence halls
  • Sponsors “Demon Swap”, which is an annual end of year sale of  residence hall student donated furniture, appliances and other goods that can be purchased by other students and staff. Proceeds from all sales benefit local food pantries and other charitable programs. Leftover goods are donated to shelters. This program keeps all of these types of good from being discarded and sent to landfill.
  • Repairs and remodelling projects are completed using green and sustainable product specifications where possible.


DePaul has worked to reduce its use of fresh water on campus in a variety of ways:

  • Purchasing sink hardware that limit water run time via either motion activation or compression timer. This hardware also contains restrictors that act in the same way that low-flow shower heads do.
  • Reducing landscape watering schedules and frequency. We have also been installing water saver hardware on active irrigation systems to save water in a manner that is similar to low-flow shower heads.
  • Purchasing more native landscape materials that require less watering. Installing drought resistant 
  • landscaping where possible.Installing low-flow shower heads at all student residence halls.
  • Specifying low-flow bathroom fixtures for all new construction and remodeling, including sinks, toilets and urinals.
  • Specifying and installing storm water management techniques that include cisterns to collect rain water that can be used for landscape irrigation.
  • In the future, DePaul will be looking into things such as changing certain existing bathroom fixtures (urinals) to waterless, which will save significant fresh water over the course of any given year.


  • DePaul has been actively involved in recycling for in excess of 30 years. The current practice employs containers around the campuses for the community to "clean sort" recyclables. In addition, vendor "in-plant" sorting extracts certain recyclable products (i.e. plastics, aluminum and glass) out of the general waste stream. The combined results produce an average of 70 to 80 tons of recycled materials on a monthly basis. This does not include the quantity of cardboard product that our food service partner recycles on a bi-weekly basis.
  • DePaul supplements the in-plant sorting with the placement of recycling containers across the campus that help to improve quantities of materials recycled while helping to educate the campus community. Certain locations currently include instructions on how to properly recycle. Improvement in practices at those locations will result in further posting of instruction materials.
  • Facility Operations continues to partner with Environmental Sciences to help promote better recycling efforts by the students in the residence halls. Thus far the results have been impressive…and continue to improve.
  • Composting is practiced in the LPC food service operation, with “compostables” collected both in back of house preparation areas as well as in the dining rooms. Approximately 60 tons of food scraps are composted annually.
  • The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), in addition to their other responsibilities, operates the battery and cell phone collection program on campus. They are also available to answer any staff or student questions on waste disposal issues, and provide an online A-Z Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling Guide and other related information available at rmehs.depaul.edu, under the Recycling Program tab.
  • DePaul has established numerous battery and cell phone recycling collection points on campus to assist the university community in the proper disposal/recycling of these products.
  • Water bottle refill stations throughout campus reduce the amount of waste from empty bottles.  There are approximately 80 stations in place across the campuses generating in excess 2 million uses per year.
  • The Housing Service residence hall “Swap Program” keeps over 100 tons of miscellaneous furniture, appliances and other goods from going to landfill by selling these items at the end of the school year. Proceeds are directed to local pantries and other charities. Remaining goods are donated to shelters and other programs in need.

Future Plans

DePaul is committed to designing all of its future new construction projects to be LEED certified. Design features may include but not be limited to some of the following:

  • Introducing native vegetation that require no irrigation, following xeriscaping techniques (e.g., using grass clippings as mulch, purchasing organic materials to supplement soil and prevent pests, and properly designing plant areas)
  • Implementing a storm water management plan to reduce runoff
  • Installing partial green or planted roofs along with highly reflective roof surfaces to reduce heat island effect
  • Limiting exterior lighting and controlling interior lights with computerized programs (i.e. Crestron) time clocks and occupancy sensors
  • Specifying daylight harvesting systems
  • Specifying and installing energy-efficient heat and cooling plant equipment
  • Using dual flush toilets and low flow showers, sinks and urinals
  • Incorporating recycled products and locally harvested and manufactured building materials with construction waste recycled; specifying Forest Stewardship Council certified woods
  • Specifying low-emitting finish materials throughout
  • Specifying and installing building automation systems that will help to improve efficiencies of operation and therefore save on energy expended
  • Implementing green housekeeping program and chemical resource management plan
  • Purchasing green power credits from renewable sources
Note: At present DePaul has three LEED award buildings on campus- McGowan South with LEED Gold,  the Art Museum with LEED Silver and Arts & Letters Hall with LEED Gold. The Theatre School project is designed to meet LEED Silver certification.
  • DePaul is engaging in several efforts to support alternative forms of transportation, such as: Purchasing hybrid vehicles for the Public Safety car fleet
  • Participating in the Chicago Transit Authority’s U-Pass program, which provides a financial incentive to students to use public transportation
  • Studying and monitoring student, faculty and staff transportation and parking habits
  • Contracting with the “I-Go” program to place several hybrid program vehicles on campus for students, faculty, staff and local community members to part take of. We are considering adding several more of these cars in the coming year.
  • Installing secure bike corrals on campus, as well as additional bike racks…and promoting biking to, from, and around campus
  • Establishing and continuing the bike intern position to promote biking to and around campus
  • Renting bikes on  campus now to those who do not own one
Other Plans:
  • DePaul has engaged in numerous existing building retro-commissioning projects at both Loop and Lincoln Park Campuses, with many projects partially funded via incentive funding providing by Commonwealth Edison. DePaul is committed to continuing retro-commissioning activities.
  • DePaul is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Challenge and has completed in excess of  $6 million in energy related projects in the new millennium, focusing mainly on lighting and hvac system retrofits.
  • DePaul develops all of its projects in accordance with the City  of Chicago’s Department of the Environment code related to energy conservation.
  • DePaul has recently installed solar lighting at two locations on Lincoln Park Campus. Solar arrays and collectors are powering a significant number of exterior security light fixtures. DePaul is committed to additional solar installations in the future.
  • DePaul has installing a green roof on the DePaul Center building and will be considering other existing building locations in the future.
  • Currently finished several mechanical equipment upgrades- with new equipment in place that uses less energy and reduces carbon footprint. Achieved this with rebate funding from Commonwealth Edison
  • DePaul has installed 60 water bottle refill stations at key locations across Loop and LPC in an effort to reduce the number of plastic water bottles in the waste stream. Last year alone over 2.5 million water bottle refill hits registered across the campuses.
  • DePaul has installed water saver shower heads at all residence halls, significantly decreasing the amount of fresh water consumed on campus. We have also revised (reduced) campus landscape watering schedules to reduce fresh water consumption.
  • DePaul has revised all materials used in its landscape maintenance operation to organic product that is free of toxic pesticides.
  • DePaul has modified the cleaning product schedule for all existing buildings with the goal of eliminating all volatile and toxic product. All bulk chemicals are now environmentally friendly or “green”.
  • DePaul has revised its paint and carpet specifications toward using low VOC products on an on-going basis.
  • DePaul has established numerous battery and cell phone recycling collection points on campus to assist the university community in the proper disposal/recycling of these products
  • DePaul operation and maintenance programs are developed and performed in a manner that assures optimum efficiency of all primary plant equipment, particularly heating plant equipment- as part of an effort to help reduce carbon emissions.
  • DePaul has been recycling using its waste and recycling services partner for in excess of 20 years now. An average month diverts 30% to 40% of our overall waste stream to recycling. We engage in a separate process, via our same vendor partner, for book recycling with DePaul’s libraries. Books are boxed and stored for a period of time and then picked up via special pick up by our vendor and taken to the recycling center for processing.
  • DePaul supplements the in-plant sorting with the placement of recycling containers across the  campus that help to improve quantities of materials recycled while helping to educate the campus community. $50,000 was recently spent to add even more containers across all buildings.
  • DePaul is phasing  in the installation  of motion sensor light switching in its existing classrooms and other major common area spaces. In 2011 40 classrooms between the two campuses were completed.
  • In the 2010/2011 fiscal year DePaul changed its Sheffield parking structure lighting to high efficiency LED throughout in order to reduce overall electrical consumption as well as CO2 emmissions.
  • 2010/2011 routine capital projects at both campuses will include additional building automation system upgrades to promote operational efficiencies, as well as other energy saving projects such as furthering the installation of variable frequency drives and energy efficient heat and cooling plant components.
  • DePaul is purchasing seven percent of its total electrical energy requirement from renewable resources.
  • DePaul purchases bathroom  paper products and copier paper  made of recycled product, and utilizes recyclable materials whenever possible during renovation  projects.
  • All interior renovation projects now include a number of energy saving components, such as motion activated light switching in offices, classrooms and other areas, energy saving light fixtures and lamps, CFL’s at all specialty lighting locations, and the installation of VFD’s on new ventilation systems.
  • DePaul purchases chilled water for 14 East Jackson from a central generating plant in the Loop. There is great benefit to purchasing central plant services- especially when the primary operating equipment is all high efficiency.
  • DePaul’s food service provider is active in sustainable practices throughout the entire food operation.
  • DePaul has replaced all washers and dryers in its student residential facilities with high efficiency Energy Star rated equipment.
  • Recently completed an agreement with our Energy Consultant to fund the purchase of CFL’s for distribution to low income grammar school students as part of an educational program that we now support. CFL’s distributed after the students learn how to help “heal” the planet through sustainable efforts.
  • DePaul’s food service operation engages in numerous sustainability activities to include: trayless Tuesday’s; refillable coffee mug Monday’s; changing from disposable to china and silverware service at eat in facilities; purchasing additional quantities of locally grown produce; utilizing additional recycled products; donating leftover food to local food pantries; and increasing vegetarian and vegan offerings. There is much more being done and more on the way.
  • DePaul’s Housing Services Department engages the residential community on a regular basis toward educating students on the merits of recycling and energy conservation. Housing Services has also developed a number of sustainable programs in its operation to include donating used furniture to shelters and other not for profit operations.
  • DePaul is establishing an urban agricultural garden at the corner of Bissell & Belden for students and faculty.
  • DePaul is working with the City of Chicago on its new bike sharing program, looking to fund and place several bike share stations at Lincoln Park Campus
  • DePaul just entered into an agreement to start composting its cafeteria food waste which is anticipated to reduce solid waste to landfill by 60 tons per year.
  • In fiscal 2012 completed the replacement of 12 pieces of major HVAC equipment, replacing all with more energy efficient models. In addition completed automated building controls upgrades at 22 buildings that result in significant operational efficiency improvements….which translates to energy saved.
  • DePaul installed two rooftop wind turbines each at two buildings on Lincoln Park Campus in the summer of 2013…McGowan North and McCabe Hall Power generated will be directed to the power grid.
  • DePaul has shifted its primary data processing center to a co-location operation, resulting in significant energy efficiencies and savings...to include savings associated with securing new DP equipment that runs at a lower BTU output and energy requirement.

Community Engagement

DePaul has been engaged in social justice and community engagement since it was founded in 1898.  

Haiti Initi​atives
DePaul's long-term commitment to Haiti is a demonstration – in true Vincentian manner – of the spirit and the strength of our DePaul community, coming together as one to enrich and deepen the lives of others and to learn more about ourselves. Come join us help to make a change in the lives of others and in our own lives.;

University Ministry, Community Service and Civic Engagement
University Ministry Community Service provides students with service opportunities, while encouraging them to develop their faith lives in light of their service involvement. Inspired by the example of St. Vincent de Paul, students will be engaged in direct service and advocacy while working towards building a more just society. University Ministry Community Service is committed to working collaboratively with all areas of the university, especially those engaged in community service, to further DePaul's Catholic-Vincentian-urban mission.

Steans Center
The Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning provides educational opportunities grounded in Vincentian community values. The center develops mutually beneficial relationships with community organizations to develop a sense of social agency in our students through enrollment in CbSL courses, community internships, and community-based student employment.

Center for Interreligious Engagement (CIE)
The work of CIE, based in DePaul's department of religious studies, focuses on one central question: What are the requirements for building sustainable bridges among individuals and communities associated with different religious cultures?

Institute for Business and Professional Ethics
The mission of the Institute of Business and Professional Ethics is to stir the moral conscience by developing models for ethical decision-making in business. The center teaches students ethical practices and inspires them to engage in social justice initiatives, advance ethical practices in Chicago-area business organizations, and catalyze the for-profit sector to address poverty through active engagement.

International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI)
IHRLI is at the forefront of contemporary human rights and rule-of-law research, training and advocacy. Since its founding, IHRLI has designed and managed projects around the world on post-conflict justice, human rights documentation and analysis, capacity building for legal professionals, gender rights and human trafficking.
 IHRLI conducts scholarly research on international criminal law, international humanitarian law and a variety of human rights and rule of law issues. IHRLI also prepares DePaul law students, activists and scholars for careers in human rights through courses, fellowship programs, internships and research opportunities in Chicago and abroad.

Eden Place STEM Service Learning Grant
This project, led by Barb Willard [embed email address Barbara Willard BWILLARD@depaul.edu], associate professor at DePaul, is a collaboration between Eden Place Nature Center, DePaul and Chicago State University. Community members, students, and faculty organize the community to help create food security and access in an impoverished Chicago neighborhood.

Participants practice the basics of urban agriculture while working at Eden Urban Farms – a year-round farm located in a food desert (impoverished areas where residents have limited access to nutritious sources of fresh produce).

Environmental Stewardship Community Internship (ESCI)
ESCI provides a unique, hands-on opportunity for DePaul environmental science/studies students to experience community-based environmental stewardship in the context of urban agriculture and youth development. 

The internships are based out of the Gary Comer Youth Center on the South Side of Chicago. The interns support the garden department’s offerings as part of the Gary Comer Youth Center’s academic enrichment/summer camp for youth ages 8-12 and the Green Career Exploration program for youth ages 13-18.

Through support of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies and the Steans Center for Community Service Learning the interns will support educational programming for youth ages K – 18 at GCYC.


Fair Business Practices Committee (FBPC)
The FBPC protects the integrity of the University's mission and values with regard to DePaul's contracts and contractors.  The FBPC will receive and examine complaints and make recommendations to the president consistent with the University's mission and values.  On occasion, the FBPC will recommend policies that also further the University's mission.

Sustainability initiatives are becoming an increasingly important topic for DePaul. Procurement Services has begun to track sustainability initiatives and reporting from many current vendors.