Cindy Klein-Banai - Associate Chancellor for Sustainability at University of Illinois Chicago

Cindy Klein-Banai - Associate Chancellor for Sustainability at University of Illinois Chicago

Ten years ago, Dr. Cynthia Klein-Banai founded the UIC Office of Sustainability where her team promotes sustainability as part of our campus culture and enhances UIC’s mission of student success, improving public health, and serving the communities of Chicago. The Office promotes the UIC Climate Commitments of Carbon Neutral Campus, Zero Waste Campus, Net Zero Water Campus, and Biodiverse Campus. She has developed applied learning and research opportunities for students through internships, volunteer opportunities, and special projects. Dr. Klein-Banai has a Ph.D. in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (EOHS) from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Cindy Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Goals for water neutral, climate neutral and zero waste

  • The importance of social equity and diversity in sustainability programs

  • Engaging UIC's Center for Cultural Understanding and Social Change in sustainability programs

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders 

Cindy's Final Five Question Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

Well, when you get someplace where you start to work, don't assume you know the answers, what's good for that institution, what needs to be done. You have to get to know the organization, the people, and also the assets. What is already going on? And then really reflect the value of sustainability and build on what's already there.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

I'm actually most excited about the students. Seeing the student engagement. Through our internship we have students that really see this as a social justice issue. For them it's not just solving an environmental problem. And so working with them gives me hope over and over again that we're going to see a shift in the global perspective and we're going to be able to work this out and survive on this planet for a good while longer.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

When thinking about social justice and sustainability, I think one book that's really good is Just Sustainability by Julian Agyeman. It's a good way to help learn about this topic, and not just the environmental perspective.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

I have to give a shout out to the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. It's really guided me in my work from the first day on the job. Disclaimer, I am on the board. Also Second Nature, when you're doing climate action or resilience planning, they have good resources for that. And a third thing that I've used that has informed me through training is something called Common Ground. It started in Chicago. Leith Sharp, who was the head of sustainability at Harvard originally, has developed some really interesting thinking about organizational change management, that builds on some of the literature that's out there, but is unique and crowdsourced.

And finally where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading at UIC?

So, or any of our social media. Our handle is sustainableuic on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.