One Year of Progress on the Climate Action Plan

November 30, 2010

With the launch of the Climate Action Plan in September 2009 the University of Pennsylvania, the first Ivy League signatory of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, has become a leading voice in higher education addressing environmental sustainability.  Penn President Amy Gutmann, also a signatory of the Global University Leadership Forum’s Sustainable Campus Charter, has consistently championed the University’s environmental efforts along with Penn administrators, providing senior leadership that complements the grassroots efforts of an active and engaged campus community.

Since the launch of the Climate Action Plan, the University has made the following progress in reducing our carbon footprint and enhancing overall sustainability practices among faculty, students, and staff:

Penn now offers over 150 classes directly related to sustainability and the environment, with more than 140 students enrolled in all environmental majors and minors. The new Sustainability and Environmental Management minor, open to undergraduate students, has been established and has 19 enrolled students. The Provost’s 2010-11 Academic Theme Year of Water is promoting lectures, conferences, discussions, tours, and exhibits throughout the year, in addition to creating a student grant program for water conservation, education, and awareness projects.

The carbon footprint of Penn’s main campus was calculated to include each of the main forms of energy consumed on campus. In FY 2010 the University achieved an overall 0.43% reduction (-1,259 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent [MTCDE]) from the FY 2007 baseline of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The reduction is a significant achievement in light of the fact that three new structures (approximately 119,000 square feet) and one major laboratory building (approximately 156,000 square feet) were completed during this period. This overall reduction includes measured emissions from purchased energy, steam and heat, commuter and air travel, and solid waste disposal. 

On the positive side, compared to 2007 there was a 2.6% decrease (-4,667 MTCDE) in electrical use.  However, compared to the 2007 baseline, steam use increased 7.4% (+4,113 MTCDE). While the decrease in electricity more than balanced out the increase in steam in terms of emissions, the management of steam use will be a major focus in the coming year. Efforts to further reduce utilities consumption are already underway, including: installing new meters in 118 buildings (approximately 75% of campus buildings) by 2012; recommissioning 12 buildings by the end of 2010 (6% of campus buildings); launching the Energy Reduction Fund to provide additional financial support for targeted projects; and insulating steam distribution lines. 

The Horticultural Center at the Morris Arboretum is on track to receive LEED Platinum certification, while the Music Building, Weiss Pavilion, and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine are all targeting LEED Silver certification. The 24-acre Penn Park, currently under construction, will increase campus green space by 20% when it opens in the fall of 2011, resulting in an enormous positive impact on storm water management for the campus and city. In addition to establishing a LEED Certification standard for all new buildings and major renovations, Facilities and Real Estate Services organized a number of staff training programs to expand knowledge of high performance design and construction standards. 

A more livable campus, with easy access to public and alternative transit is being realized through the expansion of Penn Transit’s Sustainable Transportation Initiative, which features new bi-fuel transit vehicles, electric car charging stations, student/faculty/staff car-sharing programs, and enhanced accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians.

Campus recycling increased to 27% through September 2010, up from 17% in 2007, signifying an increased engagement in this critical issue via ongoing efforts such as RecycleMania, PennMOVES, and new composting initiatives by Bon Appétit at Penn Dining. In 2010-11, the campus will see an increase in more conveniently placed indoor and outdoor recycling bins, restroom paper towels being recycled, and pilots conducted for desk side recycling options. 

A marketing communications strategy developed the Penn Green Campus Partnership to raise awareness of the broad range of sustainability efforts and initiatives across the campus via an active website that records close to 100 hits daily, a bi-monthly e-newsletter, dozens of promotional events, and over 340 sustainability stories generated by local, regional and national media outlets. 

In building a culture of sustainability at the grass roots level, over 200 Eco-Reps now serve Penn students, faculty, and staff with best green practices; approximately 600 staff received ‘Sustainability 101’ educational training; 18 Green Fund grants were awarded to members of the Penn community to implement innovative ideas for a greener campus; and 8 Schools and Centers now have their own Sustainability Coordinators.


Compost collection takes place at several locations on campus, including all campus dining halls, Golkin Hall, and Joe's Cafe at Wharton.

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