Sustainability and Stewardship

Creating a Sustainable Campus

Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. At Oakton, we recognize how important this mindset is and understand the value of being environmentally and socially responsible.

We are proud to have been named the Silver Winner of the 2019 Midwest Region Sustainability Award by the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago (ISM-Chicago), the Gold Winner of the 2018 Environmental Sustainability Award from the Village of Glenview, and the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) College Leadership and Sustainability Award in 2017.

For you, our efforts mean that you'll get to learn and work in a truly green environment—literally in the case of our Des Plaines campus, which sits among 100 acres of natural areas (see more below). Maybe you'll take science or nursing classes at the energy-efficient Margaret Burke Lee Science and Health Careers Center, certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for its use of recycled building materials and renewable energy. Or perhaps you’ll earn general education credits while completing our environmental studies concentration. We encourage you to refill water bottles at our hydration stations, take part in near-zero waste events, charge your electric vehicles, and more.

Our efforts extend to our community as well. Each year, we grow hundreds of pounds of organic produce in the community garden at the Des Plaines campus and donate the harvest to local food pantries and community partners. We hold annual Earth Week and Campus Sustainability Month events where we invite participants to raise their awareness of environmental and social justice issues, take part in ecological restoration on campus, and participate in other conservation efforts. We also understand the importance of our purchasing power, so Oakton prioritizes the purchase of environmentally-sound products and sustainable services, sourced from locally owned and/or disadvantaged businesses, whenever possible.

Oakton’s sustainability specialist, Debra Kutska, explains: "We work hard to provide students with engaging experiences in the classroom and outdoors, empowering them to become change agents. We also act as a leader to the communities we serve through mindful use of resources and thoughtful stewardship of the land on which our campus sits."

Sustainability Guidelines

These guidelines were finalized in May of 2016 by the Sustainability Center & Green Committee. They continue to guide us today in our efforts to promote and create a sustainable campus.

"At Oakton Community College, we understand we are part of a diverse landscape and ecosystem. Sustainable use of resources is important not just for the college's operations, but for the communities to which we are connected. We believe sustainable leadership through action, academic practices and social experiences on campus are integral to helping our students become mindful global citizens. With this understanding, we commit to:

  1. Providing opportunities for student learning and engagement through sustainability-related course content, curriculum and extra-curricular involvement.
  2. Making climate action a priority for the college by tracking energy usage and improving efficiency, promoting the use of renewable resources, following green building guidelines and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. As a commuter college, recognizing the impact of transportation costs on our local and global environment and promoting sustainable transportation opportunities for students, employees and visitors.
  4. Reducing our use of resources, increasing diversion efforts and managing waste in an efficient and sustainable manner.
  5. Developing and maintaining a sustainable purchasing plan which includes all materials, systems and services secured for campus operations including, but not limited to office materials, food services and recycled products.
  6. Maintaining, managing and restoring natural areas on our campuses and protecting the wildlife habitats and ecosystem functions therein and serving our community through our gardens."

Get Involved!

Each of us plays a role in creating a more sustainable world. If you are interested in engaging more deeply with other students who care about environmental and social responsibility, check out these student-led clubs!

If you are interested in spending time in the natural areas on campus as a restoration volunteer, seeking a fun, educational nature/wellness experience for your class, group, or school, or simply have any questions related to our natural spaces, reach out to our naturalist, Amanda Villacreses. She believes that nature is for everyone and is happy to work with anyone who is willing to help, regardless of experience.

Do you have ideas for how we can be more sustainable in our practices? We welcome ideas and suggestions through our Sustainability Suggestion Box at the bottom of this page.

Oakton’s Natural Areas

Oakton is home to over 100 acres of natural areas, the health of which directly affects surrounding preserves and communities. The Des Plaines campus is nestled between Forest Preserve of Cook County lands to the north, south, and east and the Des Plaines River to the west, and the land it lies on connects to surrounding wildlife areas and allows for movement between them.

In Spring 2021, we began important restoration efforts at the more urban Skokie location. Turf grass will be converted into a pollinator meadow, bringing more biodiversity to the campus for you to explore.

We are committed to working with faculty, staff and students to provide education about our incredible, rare and wonderful natural resources. These include:

  • Over 400 species of plants, shrubs and trees
  • Hundreds of species of native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians
  • A huge diversity of insects, including native bees, butterflies and other pollinators
  • Hundreds of species of migratory songbirds passing through the pathway along the Des Plaines River Corridor
  • High-quality Northern Flatwoods forest wetland
  • Diverse oak and hickory woodlands
  • Reconstructed tallgrass prairies and wetlands
  • Ephemeral ponds
  • Walking paths through a variety of naturalized areas.

Sustainability Center

Oakton is committed to being “green.” From its buildings and grounds to eco-friendly events and green management practices, the College works to preserve and protect natural resources and the planet. Sustainable practices and behaviors are designed to meet current needs without compromising those of future generations. As the College's 2013-2017 strategic plan Connecting What Matters (PDF) (387 KB) notes, "Green initiatives have made sustainability a priority in a wide range of institutional practices, academic offerings, and in the use of the grounds and internal environment.”

Recent Sustainability Successes

Solar Array on the Skokie Campus (Coming Soon!!)
Electric vehicle charging and green parking
College Leadership and Sustainability Award, IGEN
Ban the bottle initiative and new hydration stations
Increased waste diversion
Go Green Video
Science and Health Careers Center, LEED Gold Certification
Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact
Science and Health Careers Center
Photovoltaic array
Prairie restoration efforts
2014 Waste Stream Study
Near-zero waste events
Outdoor classrooms
Launch of sustainability Facebook page and blog
Creation of a sustainability specialist staff position

Stewardship for the Future

At Oakton, we are committed to fostering stewardship through ecological restoration: the process of reversing human-imposed damage to a natural landscape and helping it to recover. We use a variety of scientifically proven methods to restore ecosystems that include invasive plant removal, prescribed burns, collecting native plant seeds, planting native plants, and monitoring wildlife.

Sustainability Suggestion Box

Do you have an idea for how Oakton Community College can be more "Green"? We want to hear it! Send us your suggestions.