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Earth Day was first celebrated throughout the country on April 22, 1970 inspired by a speech by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) in 1969. The Earth Day celebration in Philadelphia was planned and organized by a group led by Ian McHarg, the late professor emeritus of landscape architecture and urban planning (Almanac March 20, 2001) whose seminal book, Design With Nature, introduced environmental concerns to landscape architecture. The department of landscape architecture and regional planning, which he founded and chaired at GSFA, was the major focus for the celebration, which culminated in 30,000 people at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park that spring day. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, April 20, 2000, the departments of city and regional planning, and landscape architecture and regional planning, in association with the Pennsylvania Planning Association, dedicated a commemorative bronze plaque citing Professor McHarg's accomplishments and recognized his extraordinary legacy as a leader in integrating environmental principles into modern planning practice. The plaque hangs in the Dean's Alley in Meyerson Hall. Below are some of the initiatives Penn has taken as part of its continued commitment to the environment.


Doubling Purchase of Wind-Generated Power to 10 Percent of Penn's Energy Needs

Displaying the Penn banner at the wind farm east of Pittsburgh, in Somerset, PA, are (left to right) Sharon Hsu, C '03; Rob Smith, CGS '04, an Environmental Initiatives intern at Facilities & Real Estate Services; Barry Hilts, associate vice president, Facilities Operations; Andrew Pike, C '04; Mike Coleman, director, Central Services, Facilities Services; and Christina Wood, C '05. 

Under a new 10-year agreement, Penn will now purchase 10 percent of its energy needs from wind-generated power, in effect doubling its nation-leading wind-energy purchase to the output from 10 wind turbines.

Penn will purchase 40 million kilowatt hours annually from Community Energy Inc. of Wayne, Pa. This agreement represents the largest retail purchase of wind-generated energy in the nation. The 10-year commitment will also lead to the construction of a new wind farm in Pennsylvania.

"We at Penn are pleased to be a national leader in the choice for clean energy and the development of the wind-generated power industry in Pennsylvania," President Judith Rodin said. "Through this example of environmental stewardship, we can continue to raise the awareness of our students and the community about alternative fuel options."

Penn became a national leader in the use of renewable energy through its original 2001 agreement to purchase 20 million kilowatt hours of wind-generated power per year for three years. The energy is produced at a wind farm in western Pennsylvania. Although wind-generated power is currently more expensive than that produced by traditional power plants, Penn funded the difference through savings from its aggressive energy-conservation program that reduced peak demand by18 percent.

Penn's new 10-year commitment will make it possible for Community Energy and other partners to construct a new wind farm to be situated in the Poconos, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Northeast Extension. The wind farm will consist of 12 turbines and is expected to produce 20 mega watts, 40 percent of which will supply Penn's additional purchase.

In September 2002, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection honored the University for its commitment to alternative energy consumption. The EPA/Department of Energy presented Penn with the Green Power Leadership Award to recognize the quantity of renewable energy purchased, the impact of that purchase and the extent to which the University helped to establish a precedent that others might replicate.

Later that month, Penn also received the 2002 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence, presented each year to the state's leaders in innovative green technologies, environmental management and resource protection.


Alternative Fuel Vehicles: The Facilities and Real Estate Services currently has one electric cart and five compressed natural gas cargo vans for use by the maintenance crews on campus. Soon they will add three lightweight, electric/pedal-powered utility vehicles (at left) for landscaping on campus.

Energy Use and Conservation: Penn consumes considerable quantities of electricity and steam to cool and heat buildings on campus. The University implemented an extensive energy conservation program in FY 2000 resulting in a decline in electricity use in spite of new building growth. There are two significant infrastructure upgrades that allow for the effective control and conservation of energy use across campus, one of which is "Utility Mod 7", that has allowed energy and financial savings from chilled water production and off-peak production of ice.

Environmental Conferences and Talks: See the Update April AT PENN, under Conferences and Talks for upcoming events pertaining to the Environment: Sustaining the Mountains: Ecological Citizens for the 21st Century; and New Challenges for the EPA: Managing National Environmental Emergencies.

The Building the Town Green Conference and Trade Show, May 1-3, at Houston Hall will include a trade show in the Hall of Flags showcasing companies marketing sustainable products and vehicles. The trade show is open to the public, free of charge, May 1, noon-5 p.m. and May 2-3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information about the Conference see

Penn's Solar Car--The Spirit of 76: Penn and the Solar Car Team plan to unveil its sixth generation of Penn Solar powered vehicles at the American Solar Challenge this summer, where the newest solar car, Spirit of '76, will race as many as 60 other teams from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Spirit of '76 will be on display at the Alumni Weekend Block Party on Saturday, May 17, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on 33rd Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets. For more information on the Solar Racing Team and the Solar Car, visit the website at

Recycling at Penn: There is a new addition to the Facilities and Real Estate Services web site, The Environment @ Penn, dedicated to raising awareness of environmental issues on campus.

See for infomation about what Penn is doing and what faculty, staff and students can do "to attain environmental sustainability."

For instance, in the Solid Waste and Recycling section, under the history and stats heading it says, "Penn's recycling program quickly attained success after its creation in 1990. For much of the nineties, Penn was the number one institutional recycler in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a recycling rate of around 28%. The recycling program's success has declined in recent years, however. Roughly 20% of waste was recycled in 2002 or only 1,809 tons of the total 8,802 tons of solid waste. The Division of Facilities Services is dedicated to improving Penn's recycling program and is working on several strategies to decrease the waste stream and improve the percentage of waste that is recycled." It also lists what can be recycled on campus and where.

Photos by M.A. Morris


Penn’s 10-year commitment to purchase ten percent of its energy needs from wind-generated power was announced Monday, at the Earth Festival 2003, sponsored by the Penn Environmental Group (PEG). The theme was Thinking About Alternative Energy. Gathering on College Green after the announcement are (left to right) Brent Alderfer, president of Community Energy Inc., Omar Blaik, Penn’s vice president of Facilities and Real Estate, Services, Sharon Hsu, ’C03, and Mike Coleman, director, Central Services, Facilities Services.


This electric cart that Facilities uses on campus is “street legal” and can go up to 25 mph.

  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 30, April 22, 2003