A biker bikes down a city street.

Sustainability at SAIC

Creating a Sustainable Future

SAIC is a forward-thinking community of artists, designers, and educators, many of which complete invaluable work to address urgent environmental challenges. It is the institution’s responsibility to support this work and to exercise leadership in communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize emissions that contribute to climate change.

  • From LEDs to bees and renewable energy in between, for the past 10 years SAIC has been busy becoming a sustainable and resilient campus. SAIC joined the Second Nature Climate Leadership Commitment in 2008 and in its first 10 years, the School reduced its carbon footprint by 57 percent. As of January 1, 2020, the School achieved carbon neutrality through continued operational changes, renewable energy credits (RECs), and carbon offsets.

  • In addition to signing the Second Nature Climate Commitment (formerly known as the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment) and participating as a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, SAIC has implemented numerous measures to reduce its carbon footprint and move toward environmentally preferable practices. Systematic upgrades to building mechanical systems, improved metering and monitoring of building systems and energy efficient lighting upgrades contribute to this commitment.

    SAIC also works with local networks, national organizations and peer institutions to advance sustainability and accelerate climate action. SAIC partners include the Alliance to Retrofit Chicago Higher Education (ARCH).

  • As a school of art and design, SAIC has the responsibility to engage students, faculty and staff by providing them with a supportive environment for sustainability-focused teaching, learning, living, making and research. SAIC supports this mission through the Sustainable SAIC committee, which promotes and facilitates the cooperative efforts of the SAIC community to educate, develop values, share knowledge, adopt policies and implement sustainable practices.

    Many students have chosen to design curricular pathways that allow a broad exploration of issues related to the study of resource conservation, environmental activism and ecological principles. 

Energy Conservation

SAIC recognizes that improving the energy efficiency of campus buildings plays a critical part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in creating a culture of sustainability.

As a signatory of the Second Nature Carbon Commitment, SAIC has conducted five greenhouse gas reports in the past seven years. Since 2009, SAIC’s school-wide emissions have decreased by 18 percent per square foot. In addition, overall emissions have decreased by 6 percent and thus effectively prevented the emission of 9,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This reduction in emissions was achieved despite a 15 percent increase in the SAIC community population.

Waste Diversion

SAIC is committed to reducing the amount of waste that is sent to the landfill. Review the resources below to help.

  • Recycling bins are located in all offices, classrooms, and residence halls across campus. SAIC has a single-stream recycling collection program. Paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, tin and aluminum all go into the same blue bin. All recycling collection bins are lined with clear plastic bags to distinguish the contents from black trash bags. Clear bags of recyclables are removed by cleaning personnel and then picked up by Lakeshore Recycling. Once the recyclables reach a material recovery facility (MRF) they are separated by people and machines and then sold by the material. 

  • SAIC provides post-consumer compost collection in the 280 Building Café. Any food that you don’t eat should get scraped into the compost collection container. Food scraps are a valuable resource that can be kept out of landfills and converted back into healthy soil.

    SAIC collects organic material created during food preparation at all campus kitchens. The Columbus woodshop also collects sawdust. Collective Resources picks up the collected organic material and then processes it into healthy soil.

  • Surplus is a program where used and excess materials can be made available for other students to take and use for free. Students can bring art-making supplies they no longer need that meet the material guidelines and take away materials that they can use. Surplus provides a stream of materials for art making while keeping excess materials out of the landfill.

    Surplus currently operates in the 280 and Sharp buildings.

    280 Building, 280 S. Columbus Dr., room 128
    Monday: 2:00–3:00 p.m.
    Thursday through Friday: 2:00–3:00 p.m.

    Sharp Building, 37 S. Wabash Ave., room 312
    Open during shop hours

    Stay up-to-date on the latest materials through the Sustainable SAIC Facebook page. 

  • Electronic waste collection bins are available in SAIC's media centers, the Sullivan Advanced Output Center and residence hall mailrooms. Used batteries, light bulbs, and small electronics can be deposited in these bins. All collected electronic waste is picked-up and processed by Sipi. Sipi provides SAIC with chain of custody information and ensures all electronic waste is handled appropriately.

  • SAIC's media center and gallery equipment are used throughout the year. Therefore, equipment is constantly updated according to community needs. This results in an excess of electronics that are no longer needed. FireSale, an event in which used electronics are sold to students for substantially reduced prices furthers this equipment's use while reducing electronic waste. 

  • Instructional Resources and Facilities Management collaborates with Residence Life to provide donation collection bins in residence halls for students to donate unwanted items. In spring 2017 over 5,000 pounds of donated goods were given a second life. 

  • Hazardous waste is created when there is no longer a use for a hazardous material or chemical. SAIC utilizes the services of licensed hazardous waste haulers to safely dispose of chemical and biohazard wastes. 

Get Involved

Your involvement and participation in sustainability initiatives is easy and important. Listed below are a few ways you can contribute every day. Share your energy reduction actions through social media using the #SAICUnplugged hashtag.

  • SAIC has a robust biking culture that reflects a strong commitment to lower carbon transit and healthy lifestyles. Many students, faculty and staff bike to campus every day. SAIC provides resources to support their ability to ride confidently and safely.

  • There are city-managed bike racks in front of each of SAIC’s primary buildings available for use by the SAIC community and the general public.

    • The 280 Building at 280 South Columbus Drive offers sheltered outdoor bike racks and a bike repair station with an air pump.
    • The Lakeview Building at 116 South Michigan Avenue houses a bike room that is available to AIC and SAIC staff and faculty. The bike room is accessible during regular building hours, Monday-Friday from 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. Employees are required to complete a one-time, fifteen-minute orientation to receive key access to use the facility. Email wporter@saic.edu to sign up for an orientation.
    • Jones Hall and the 162 Residences have bike rooms that can accommodate 30+ bicycles. They are available for long-term storage by current residents and are accessible 24/7. All residents have access with their ARTICard and can store their bikes throughout the school year.

    Please note that bikes left on city-managed bike racks for an extended period of time are subject to removal by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

  • Emergency U-Lock checkouts are available at security desks in the Sharp Building, MacLean Center, and the 280 Building. U-Locks can be checked out for 24 hours, but must be checked out again for longer periods of use.

  • The Bike Commuter Challenge (BCC) is an opportunity for staff and faculty of the Art Institute of Chicago (museum, school, and central administration) to raise awareness of the environmental and health benefits of commuting by bike. The team has won the 500+ Employees education category four times in recent years.

  • SAIC has a partnership with Divvy Bikes that provides students, staff and faculty with discounted annual memberships. Students receive a $75 annual membership and staff and faculty receive an $89 annual membership.

    Students: Visit Divvy’s Become a Member page to register for a Divvy account. Use your SAIC email (@artic.edu) and enter "SAICBikes" in the Partner Password field to complete registration and receive the discount.

    Staff and Faculty: Email Jennifer Feulner (jfeulner@artic.edu) with “Divvy Gift Code” in the subject line to receive a gift certificate code to use at Divvy’s Corporate Membership page at checkout.  For general questions about the bikes, stations or system, email customerservice@divvybikes.com.