Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

Institute opens a new era of learning

The new Institute of Environmental Sustainability combines academics and research with sustainable agriculture and community living. And it does it all in one amazing facility. Visit the institute’s home page.

About the institute

The institute houses Loyola’s nationally recognized sustainability programs and prepares students to become leaders in environmental research, policy, and justice. Several bachelor’s and master’s degree options are available.
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For years, our professors have been conducting research to address some of the world’s most-pressing environmental issues. Now, with state-of-the-art labs, they’ll be able to do even more.
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Whether you’ve been living sustainably your whole life or are just starting out, Loyola has a program for you. From recycling to urban farming, we can show you how to live a greener life.
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Want to learn even more? Then check out our resources page, which has everything from career information to energy-use reports to checklists on how to host a green event on campus.
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See how sustainability plays a key role in everything Loyola does.

“We are delighted to open this institute, which is designed to address today’s ecological challenges—challenges that disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized in our world.”

Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., President and CEO of LoyolaSee more photos from the grand opening

Inside the building

The new institute is loaded with state-of-the-art technology to make it as energy efficient and forward thinking as possible. Click the arrows to open each panel and learn more about the building’s features; click again to close.

The soaring glass ceiling that wraps around the institute serves multiple purposes: It ventilates the building, collects rainwater, and provides plenty of natural light for the plants growing inside the Ecodome.

Natural ventilation

Rising hot air is drawn out of the top of the Ecodome while computer-controlled vents allow cooler air to enter the space from below. This helps air flow through the greenhouse without mechanical assistance.

Water harvesting

The roof is designed to capture as much rainwater as possible and divert it into a 3,000-gallon cistern within the facility. This water is then reused for irrigation—and even to flush some of the toilets in the building.

Plant production

The Ecodome is a functioning greenhouse and urban farm that also serves as a living, breathing laboratory for students and faculty. The glass roof helps everything grow by filling the space with natural light.

Loyola’s Biodiesel Program is the only school-based operation licensed to produce and sell biodiesel in the United States. It is run entirely by students (with the help of one staff member) and is financially self-sufficient.

How it works

Used vegetable oil is collected from cafeterias and filtered to remove any food debris.
The filtered oil is poured into a 400-gallon tank. Potassium hydroxide and methanol are added. The oil is heated and eventually separates into two parts: biodiesel and glycerin.
The glycerin is treated and turned into soap. (It can also be poured onto a compost heap to help speed decomposition.)
The biodiesel is washed with water to remove any impurities. The fuel is now ready to use.
The leftover “wash water” is treated and used to clean the next batch of biodiesel.

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At 500 feet below ground, the earth’s temperature remains about 58° year-round in Chicago. This constant temperature is at the core of the geothermal system that heats and cools the institute. The 91-well system—the largest of its kind in Chicago—is extremely efficient, cutting the building’s heating and cooling costs by 30 percent.

How it works

The wells carry coolant deep underground, where the fluid is warmed before returning. Once inside the institute, a biodiesel-fueled boiler raises the coolant’s temperature some more, and a heat exchanger draws heat from the fluid to warm the building. The liquid in the wells, now cooled, is recirculated underground and the process repeats.
The process is reversed, with warm fluid being pumped underground to get cooled.

Aquaponics blends fish farming with soil-free agriculture to create a sustainable food production system. In the set-up at the institute, fish live in water tanks on the bottom level, while plants grow in trays on top.

How it works

The waste water from the fish tanks is pumped up to the growing beds (1), where the plants extract the nutrients they need (2). The water, now cleansed of toxins, is returned to the fish tanks (3)—and the entire process starts over (4). This “closed-loop system” requires only a small amount of electricity for the pump, a little food for the fish, and sunlight for the plants. Yet it can grow plenty of food—in the form of fresh produce and fish—to eat.

Loyolans react

Maggie Wejksnora

Freshman
San Francisco Hall resident

“The dorm is great. I love plants—and living around all these plants is amazing. It’s a really cool place to call home.”

Kevin Bautista

Junior
San Francisco Hall resident assistant

“It’s a great communal setting, and it’s nice that we have all of these eco-friendly features. It’s good to see the University embrace sustainability like this.”

Lane Vail

Research associate
Institute of Environmental Sustainability

“The space is stunning; I love how you can see all the levels at once. And it’s a very collaborative environment, which is ideal for teaching and research.”

Bala Chaudhary, PhD

Lecturer
Institute of Environmental Sustainability

“It’s so rare that research space is located where students live and learn and eat. I think it’s going to help draw students into our research programs.”

Campus-wide commitment

Sustainability isn’t a buzzword or a fad at Loyola. It’s a way of life. We take sustainability to heart and apply it to everything we do—from the courses we offer to the buildings we construct.

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A sustainable home

Sustainability hits home at San Francisco Hall, which overlooks the greenhouse and is filled with eco-friendly features. And it also lives on at Engrained Café, a new sustainable eatery that serves local, organic food.

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Beds in San Francisco hall

Loyola’s new sustainable residence hall is open to first- and second-year students.

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Student neighborhoods

The hall is divided into several sections, which can compete in friendly energy-saving competitions.

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Recycled bottles

That’s how many plastic soda bottles are used to make each of the “111 Chairs” at Engrained Café.

It’s more than a farm

Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus in suburban Woodstock is home to the Loyola Student Farm — an educational space where students study the relationship between people and their environment.Learn More