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Sustainability Efforts

Sustainability Initiatives

Oakton is going green!


  • College’s biology and science students use the campuses as living laboratories.  At Des Plaines, the forest preserve and lake offer many educational opportunities. 
  • Green Classes
  • “Food Matters” service learning initiative


  • Community gardens at both campuses
  • Celebrate Earth Day each year with speakers, recycling campaigns for plastic bags, forest preserve and community garden clean ups, displays.
  • Native Landscaping and Conservation Award from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness in 2010 – restoring 50 acres of woodland and reconstructing seven acres of grassland.
  • Oakton received $49,155 from Commonwealth Edison for agreeing to reduce the College’s electricity use during summer “brown outs,” which put a heavy strain on the regional power grid.


  • Created arboretum; planted hundreds of trees
  • Adopt-a-tree program to enhance the arboretum around the lake
  • Ecology Club
  • Shift to on line billing in 2010 – eliminated 25,000 paper bills
  • Recycled approximately 10,000 pounds of steel when replacing gym bleachers.
  • Replaced drives and motors of HVAC equipment with more energy-efficient parts – Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development provided a $75,000 rebate.
  • Solar panels on Des Plaines roof heat about 35 percent of building’s water – reducing electricity by 85,000 kilowats and saving $8,000 annually.
  • Fluorescent bulbs replaced with CFLs; motion detectors and timers ensure that lights go off in empty rooms.
  • Non-toxic cleaning products
  • Green-certified paper products (toilet paper, paper towels)
  • Nine air hand dryers at both campuses reduce paper towel use
  • Use of organic fertilizers when possible.
  • Building Together includes a “commitment to a green college”
  • Ecology Club enhancements to Lake Oakton: floating platforms for turtles, fish houses at the bottom for fish to hide in, cocoa mats to cover the bank and prevent erosion.
  • Campus Green Committee guides new initiatives
  • Disposal boxes placed along the shore offer a safe place to discard fishing line, a potential choking or strangling hazard to local wildlife.
  • Negotiated with food service vendor to eliminate packaged condiments and replace with large containers in an effort to reduce garbage.

Community Garden

Completed in 2010, Oakton’s community gardens – open to all students, employees, and district residents – are examples of small, sustainable agriculture and a place for learning and community. Each garden includes 15 4’ x 12’ plots, framed with a long-lasting wood substitute.

Garden produce goes home with volunteers or is donated to food pantries and community centers.

Student Profile

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As a student ambassador at Oakton, Michael Underwood is helping others avoid his mistakes.