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Northwestern named EPA energy efficiency partner for fourth consecutive year

By Win Reynolds
Northwestern Now

Northwestern University has earned the ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year — Sustained Excellence Award for the fourth consecutive year from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In 2020, Northwestern was the first university to ever receive the award.

The Sustained Excellence Award is the highest honor given by the ENERGY STAR program, and honors businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through superior energy achievements.

“Our campus community continues to work together year after year to find innovative ways to reduce our environmental impact,” said Craig Johnson, executive vice president at Northwestern. “We are honored to receive the Sustained Excellence Award again.”

The University was also the first school to receive the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award consecutively (2018 and 2019) before receiving the Sustained Excellence award in 2020.

Some of Northwestern’s notable achievements in sustainability over the past year include:

  • Northwestern’s long-term partnership with clean energy integrator Ameresco, Inc. has enabled several strategic projects across the University. The first round, which is currently being implemented and includes lighting upgrades, optimization of outdoor air controls, air handler replacements and steam insulation, will reduce Northwestern’s carbon footprint by more the 6,000 ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (the equivalent of emissions from burning over 6.5 million pounds of coal).
  • Reusable to-go containers, implemented in dining halls, have successfully led to the reduction of 22,000 disposable to-go containers in the 2022-23 academic year.
  • The new Green Labs Certification Program catalyzes lab users to adopt best practices for sustainable lab management and operations without sacrificing research quality or lab safety. Since the program’s start in November 2022, two labs have been certified and nine are in the certification process across the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Labs evaluate everything from energy use to new lab member orientation with help from Northwestern resources that include a monitor to directly measure energy consumed by commonly used lab equipment (interested labs can reach out to to learn more and get involved).
  • Smart water meters are being added to all Evanston campus buildings, allowing for better tracking of water use across campus and contributing to water conservation efforts.
  • Electric vehicle charging is coming to Chicago campus parking garages.

Sustainability initiatives at Northwestern are led by sustainNU, a University-wide program that engages students, faculty and staff in reducing Northwestern’s impact on the environment to cultivate an ecologically sound, socially just and economically sustainable culture on campus.

As part of Earth Month celebrations in April, Northwestern community members will be invited to join a fair showcasing groups driving sustainability initiatives on campus, take part in a bird watching walk, plant trees and more.

sustainNU is in the process of finalizing the University’s next Strategic Sustainability Plan, development of which included a comprehensive external trend analysis, peer institution benchmarking, and broad engagement with Northwestern and external stakeholders — including alumni, city officials from Evanston and Chicago, and community groups.

“As we accelerate historic efforts to address climate change, public-private partnerships will be essential to realizing the scale of our ambition,” said EPA administrator Michael S. Regan. “I applaud this year’s ENERGY STAR award winners for working with EPA to deliver a clean energy future that saves American consumers and businesses money and creates jobs.”

Winners are selected from a network of thousands of ENERGY STAR partners. For a complete list of 2023 winners and more information about ENERGY STAR’s awards program, visit

ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. Thousands of industrial, commercial, utility, state, and local organizations rely on their partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deliver cost-saving energy efficiency solutions. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped American families and businesses avoid more than $500 billion in energy costs and achieve more than 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions. More background information about ENERGY STAR’s impacts can be found at