Challenge Yourself

Our habits, attitudes, and creativity give us the potential to make a difference at Illinois Tech—in the community and in the world at large. Learn about simple ways that you can change the way you work and live today to help create a more sustainable tomorrow.

Energy: Ways to reduce emissions

Set the Sleep Mode on Your Computer

Setting your computer to sleep mode takes only a few seconds, but can reduce electricity use by 87% compared to leaving it on (desktop computer). Modern computers are not damaged by frequent start ups and shut downs, and the surge of energy used to start up the computer is very small relative to the energy used by leaving the computer on.

Adjust Thermostats

According to the United States Department of Energy, the heating and cooling load of your building could decrease by 2–3% if all of its occupants adjusted their thermostats by even just a few degrees (down in winter and up in summer).

Turn off the Lights and Unplug Chargers/Electronics When You Leave the Room*

Always best to turn it off if you leave!

Wash Clothes in Cold or Warm Water

About 90% of the energy used by clothes washing machines is for heating the water. And according to the Department of Energy, washing clothes on cold or warm is usually sufficient, and simply using warm water instead of hot can cut energy use for that load in half!

Take the Stairs

Regular exercise, including simple measures like walking up stairs, can reduce the risks of many serious diseases. The average person burns 10 calories per minute taking the stairs, a difference in weight of 8 pounds over 10 years! Taking the stairs is great for your health, and reduces building energy use!


Reduce Food Waste

Take what you want, but eat what you take! Food scraps rank third in their contribution to solid waste in the U.S., accounting for 17.5% of our garbage. It only takes a minute to think before you order or fill your plate. By doing so you can take control of a large proportion of the waste you produce.

Choose Local, Seasonal Produce

In the U.S., produce travels an average of 1500 miles from its origin before it lands on your plate (USDA) Buying local reduces "food miles" which adds up to large reductions in fossil fuel needed for transport. Attend a local farmers' market. Find out what’s in season. Try putting 50% of your produce expenditures into local sources.

Buy Organic

Make a change for a healthier you, healthier farmers, and a healthier planet! Growing food and raising livestock organically limits the chemicals being put into our bodies and our planet. Organic methods protect water quality, maintain soil fertility, and enhance biodiversity. Buying organic also supports farmers who choose to safeguard the health of their families by avoiding toxins in their fields.


Drink Tap Water, Not Bottled*

According to an NY Times, Americans will throw out over 30 billion single-serving bottles of water this year! If you are concerned about your tap water, use a filter on the faucet—a much more eco-friendly way of ensuring pure water.

Don't Leave the Tap Running

Turn off the water faucet when brushing your teeth, washing your face, or shaving. The average faucet uses between 2 and 3 gallons per minute! Leaving the water running for just 2 minutes every day would waste up to 2190 gallons of water each year.

Take Shorter Showers

A standard showerhead uses about 5-7 gallons of water per minute (gpm)—so even a 5-minute shower can consume 35 gallons! Better yet, install a low-flow showerhead, which use 1.5-2.5 gpm—it's an easy way to cut your water use by 50-80%!


Buy and Use Recycled Paper

Close the recycling loop. We know you recycle your paper already, but what happens to that recycled paper? It gets made into high-quality paper, so support the market for recycled paper and buy recycled paper! Of course, you already knew that buying recycled paper saves trees, energy, water, resources like bleach, and landfill space, and it costs the same as non-recycled paper.

Double-Sided Printing*

One ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!) At least 38.9% of the U.S. waste stream is paper. One person uses two pine trees worth of paper products every year.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle

The EPA estimates that 75 percent of what Americans throw in the trash could actually be recycled. The aluminum can is 100 percent recyclable and can be used to make new beverage cans indefinitely. Go to for more information.