Keeping It Green at Oakton

Your source for the most current sustainability news from Oakton Community College

Green Initiatives

This page is currently under construction–please check back soon to learn more about our sustainability initiatives!



Projected Projects/Initiatives for 2014-2015

Communication–Oakton Community College has been using environmentally friendly practices and products for decades–but it is time we start really promoting them! This year we will be focusing on improving communication about our sustainability initiatives to the campuses and community. This blog is one way! We will also connect through Facebook and a redesigned Sustainability page on the OCC website.

Sustainability Specialist-The new position of Sustainability Specialist was added to our staff this year! Debra Kutska was hired in July 2014 to help coordinate the many sustainability efforts occurring throughout OCC. She will be working closely with the OCC Green Committee, staff/faculty/students and members of the community to highlight our existing efforts and increase opportunities for environmentally friendly solutions.

Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact-In coordination with the Illinois Green Governments Coordinating Council, OCC has pledged to incorporate sustainability into our campus operations, academic and research programs, student activities and community outreach. We have committed to achieving the Silver level for this year. You can review the Compact HERE.

Science and Health Careers Center-Scheduled for completion in 2014, the new Center – located at the Des Plaines campus — is designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Offices and student study spaces will provide optimum views of Lake Oakton, while windows in the corridors and classrooms will frame the surrounding forest. The facility will maximize solar heat gain and mitigate winter winds. A system that uses exhaust air to preheat and cool supply air will reduce heating and cooling loads, and occupancy sensors will regulate lighting. Daylight harvesting will bring natural light to 75 percent of the classrooms and the building façade will be self-shading.



Previous Projects/Initiatives (*indicates ongoing and/or still in effect)

Environmental Burn-Oakton conducted a controlled burn of approximately 29 acres on the east and south ends of campus forests in December 2012.  The burn enhanced the learning opportunities for students in the College’s biology and science classes.

New Chiller Towers*-Will use rain water harvested from the roof to supply the building’s air conditioning at Des Plaines. The College should see a 40 percent savings in its annual water bill.

Water Hydration Stations*-Three “hydration stations” – two at Des Plaines and one at Skokie – encourage thirsty people to refill their own water bottles, instead of purchasing bottled water.

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 and is donated to food pantries and community centers.

Flooding and Storm water Matter*-Because it is adjacent to the Des Plaines River, the Des Plaines campus experiences periodic flooding of roads, parking lots, athletic fields, and wooded areas. In fact, these areas were designed to flood.  The building itself is above the 100-year flood plain level and has never flooded.

Oakton is mindful of flood and stormwater matters and worked with regulatory agencies to ensure appropriate stormwater management measures were incorporated into the Facilities Master Plan. The plan includes a minor elevation change at the peninsula for compensatory storage.  Additionally, storm detention is incorporated into the design of the Science and Health Careers Building: the main/first floor is on columns (or pilotis) with a majority of the building above the ground.  Use of a cistern or green roof is also being considered to retain stormwater and release it to Oakton’s retention pond at a controlled rate.

image of flood plain


  • 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.



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