Sustainability requires reducing the negative impacts of our economic choices and using natural resources wisely to protect and conserve the environment for our generation and those to come. It is the balance between the environment, social equity, and economy to create thriving, healthy, diverse, and resilient communities. Accordingly, sustainable policies emphasize the future effect of any given policy or business practice on humans, ecosystems, and the wider economy. The IGEN network of colleges have implemented numerous programs and initiatives to help support students and the workforce to create a more sustainable Illinois.
There is a growing concern worldwide about the underlying link between solid waste management, environmental pollution, land use, resource management, and public health. As the population grows and generates more solid waste — garbage, landscape waste, and construction/demolition debris — landfill capacity is rapidly decreasing. Yet, nearly half of the solid waste produced globally is organic or biodegradable. Additionally, disposing of recyclable or reusable goods necessitates the production of more materials from new resources, requiring additional extraction from the environment and releasing more greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. One example of how recycling conserves natural resources is that recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees. As such, reducing, recycling, and composting waste is critical to building a healthier ecosystem.
In Illinois, solid waste management efforts are supported by three primary laws: the Solid Waste Management Act, the Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. These regulations help guide waste management decisions and implement proper waste management plans.
The IGEN network of colleges is part of the sustainable resource management movement toward zero waste. Colleges are working to change attitudes as well as practices on their campuses and in their communities. Towards those goals, colleges are:
Automotive Recycling Certificate
Waubonsee Community College
Industrial/Brownfield Safety, Land Reuse and Public Health
South Suburban College
The IGEN Career Pathways Consortium created and re-designed over 30+ green industry certificate and degree programs at 17 Illinois community colleges through a Department of Labor’s TAACCT career pathways grant. Courses were created using open-source materials and are intended to be shared as a free resource for other educational institutions or programs. College faculty and staff who are interested in exploring course content in a variety of green career fields can access these materials via Skills Commons, a repository created by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
Auto and Truck Recyclers of Illinois
Building Materials Reuse Association
Environmental Law and Policy Center
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Illinois Environmental Council
Illinois Green Business Council
Illinois Recycling Association
Illinois Sustainable Technology Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Second Nature – Education for Sustainability
SEED Center – Sustainability Education and Economic Development