PHILADELPHIA –- The academic component that the University of Pennsylvania has included in its Climate Action Plan caught the attention of the International Sustainable Campus Network when that agency compiled its inaugural Global University Leaders Forum Charter report earlier this year.
Penn became a charter member of the Global University Leaders Forum in 2010 when President Amy Gutmann signed the Sustainable Campus Charter, which commits signatories to excellence in building impacts, campus-wide target setting and an integrated sustainability approach to research, education and operations.
“How we address climate change today will affect countless generations to come,” Gutmann said. “I am proud of the progress Penn has made through its Climate Action Plan and in the many sustainability initiatives we pursue on campus. Universities have a mission to be agents of the long-range thinking that builds a more sustainable future, and our actions large and small matter.”
Penn is one of seven American universities in the 18-member Forum.
The ISCN-GULF charter report, issued in February, includes a summary of Penn’s 2011 submission. The points recognized at Penn were:
- The Climate Action Plan Academics Goal of making climate change and sustainability part of the curriculum and educational experience available to all students and to the larger campus community.
- There are more than 160 sustainability-related courses, in departments ranging from Environmental Studies to Public Health.
- A Sustainability and Environmental Management minor was established in 2009 by the School of Arts and Sciences, the Wharton School and the School of Engineering and Applied Science for undergraduate students.
- More than 140 students are enrolled in all environmental majors and minors.
- The University publishes the On College Green e-newsletter.
- “Year of Water” was the 2011 academic theme year, sponsored by the Office of the Provost.
- Behavior change initiatives have been implemented, including the establishment of a new undergraduate program in energy research, expansion of the Eco-Reps programs for outreach and engagement and the development of the Penn Green Fund which finances cutting edge sustainability projects.
- Sustainability coordinators have been hired by many schools and centers.
As an ISCN-GULF signatory, Penn is required to submit reports on its sustainability performance for transparency and to encourage best-practice exchange with others that practice sustainability disclosure.
In 2009, Penn developed its Climate Action Plan as part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Penn is currently the largest purchaser of wind power among U.S. colleges and universities, requires all new campus buildings to be designed to a LEED Silver certification or higher and has increased engagement through a robust student and staff Eco-Reps program.
Additional information on Penn sustainability initiatives is available at www.upenn.edu/sustainability.