How Green Is Our Valley

Students on a lawn near the library

Step foot on campus, and you’ll see green all around you. The University of Oregon is nestled in a 295-acre arboretum that contains over 3,000 trees from 500 different species. This abundance of life is a vivid realization of the UO’s dedication to preserving the natural environment—a commitment that governs decisions about how the university runs day-to-day and how it will grow in the future.

In 2011, the university adopted the Oregon Model for Sustainable Development (OMSD), a campus-wide plan that is reevaluated every ten years. The OMSD establishes principles for new buildings, major remodels, and landscape changes, including a requirement that all new development projects must achieve LEED Gold certification.

The UO has been engaged in sustainability practices for well over three decades, with all paper waste from UO Printing Services recycled since 1975. The UO’s award-winning Campus Recycling Program, one of the oldest in the nation, began in 1989 as a student initiative and was quickly adopted by the university. Since that time, the UO has increasingly committed to green living.

The UO Office of Sustainability coordinates campus eco-efforts and provides official policy on this important issue. The Institute for a Sustainable Environment applies UO faculty research to real world environmental problems.

One jewel in the UO’s eco-crown is the Lillis Business Complex. A living bio-roof garden, a day-lighting system that reduces demand for electric lighting by 40 percent, and the second largest photovoltaic solar collector array in the state all add up to certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, making Lillis one of the nation’s most environmentally friendly business school facilities.

Other areas of campus where innovative environmental solutions have been put into practice include:

  • The Living-Learning Center is illuminated by natural light and circulates air through cross-ventilation, resulting in a facility 30 percent more efficient than required by the Oregon Energy Code.
  • A low-lying swale at the Moss Street Children’s Center slows the entry of storm water into the sewer system.
  • The east balcony of the Erb Memorial Union (EMU) sports “solar umbrellas” to supplement the building’s energy usage.
  • Permeable paving in the parking lot alongside the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art allows rainwater to return to earth without flowing through pipes—a cleaner way to channel runoff into the Willamette River.
  • University Housing practices a wide array of sustainability efforts in the management of residence halls and dining venues, from serving local foods to encouraging residents to use recycling bins in their rooms to using biodegradable forks and cups. Unused food scraps become compost for the UO Urban Farm.