Environmental sustainability is a defining issue of the 21st century, and higher education can play a leadership role in addressing global climate change. Through the research, teaching, and operational practices articulated in its Climate Action Plan 2.0, Penn is dedicated to promoting a sustainable culture and implementing environmentally conscious policies.
Penn seeks to incorporate issues relating to climate change and sustainability into curricular and co-curricular offerings for all students. The numerous initiatives that grew out of the institutional priority now fall under the Green Campus Partnership, which continues to introduce programs, collaborate with the Office of the Provost, and expand opportunities for relevant research and internships, all with a primary focus on students.
The most significant way to reduce the University’s carbon footprint is by decreasing energy consumption. Because of this, an extensive energy management and conservation strategy figures prominently in Penn’s Climate Action Plan 2.0.
Climate Action Plan 2.0
Since launching the first Climate Action Plan in 2009, Penn has made significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint and engaging the whole community in creating a campus-wide culture of sustainability. Building on these successes, Climate Action Plan 2.0 raises the bar even higher, serving as both a blueprint for environmental improvement and a roadmap for reaching Penn’s long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2042.
As the largest private employer in greater Philadelphia and a destination for thousands of daily commuters, Penn recognizes the significant impact of auto travel on the environment. The University launched its Sustainable Transportation Initiative in 2010 to work toward lowering the University's carbon footprint. The Climate Action Plan 2.0 continues these efforts by emphasizing new programs and services designed to provide faculty, staff and students with a wider array of environmentally sustainable commuting options.
While waste may not be the largest contributor to Penn's carbon footprint, it is certainly the most visible. Penn’s outreach campaigns such as inspire individuals to adopt the mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle" across campus. Climate Action Plan 2.0 and Penn’s Solid Waste Management Plan call on the University to decrease its municipal solid waste and increase its recycling rate by continuing to refine management of the five common waste streams on campus: landfill trash, single-stream recycling, compost, universal waste, and miscellaneous waste.
Green Campus Partnership
The Green Campus Partnership draws together passionate students, faculty, and staff from across the University to develop innovative environmental practices and policies. The Partnership sets ambitious standards for campus performance and spearheads efforts to meet or exceed them, making immediate and lasting impacts on our local community, our nation, and the world.
One of the world's most attractive urban campuses, Penn is home to significant achievements in planning, landscape design, and architecture. The award-winning Penn Connects campus development plan is steering Penn's commitment to a healthy built environment. Following the recommendations of the Climate Action Plan 2.0, Penn is implementing new strategies to increase ecologically managed green space, decrease energy consumption, and promote awareness of sustainable design.
Penn Dining is firmly committed to providing its community with sustainably produced, locally sourced food, and has partnered with Bon Appétit Management Company to achieve this end. Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork initiative enables Penn to purchase local, healthy, flavorful food produced through practices that respect farm workers and animals and replenish our shared natural resources for future generations. This commitment invites students, staff, and faculty to engage in educational opportunities about healthy lifestyle choices, sustainable agriculture and a low-carbon diet.
Penn's Sustainable Purchasing Initiative seeks to increase the purchase of products with a reduced or minimal (ideally zero) environmental impact compared to similar products and services that serve the same purpose. This initiative encourages the University's preferred suppliers to offer products that promote environmental stewardship, inviting Penn faculty and staff to fulfill their purchase requirements with environmentally friendly products.
Penn abounds with opportunities for students, faculty and staff to research, learn about, advocate for, and implement sustainability practices on campus and beyond.
The Student Sustainability Association at Penn fosters cohesion and increased collaboration among the 18 student environmental groups on campus and between students, staff, and faculty working on environmental issues. The group develops strategies for campus sustainability and helps create a unified student voice on green issues at Penn.
The Wharton Sustainability Program contributes to Penn’s campus-wide greening efforts by identifying and implementing substantive reductions in the environmental impact of the Wharton community.
The TC Chan Center is a faculty research and consulting unit within Penn’s School of Design. Faculty from multiple disciplines work to advance understanding of the complex technical, economic, social, and political arrangements with which sustainability can be achieved.