PHILADELPHIA –- As the threat of global climate change spurred the University of Pennsylvania to reduce its carbon footprint, Penn developed a Climate Action Plan that outlines specific goals and strategies for conserving energy, minimizing waste, reducing emissions, building greener and educating the campus community about living greener.
In 2007, Penn President Amy Gutmann signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment pledge, and Penn benchmarked baseline measures of its environmental impact. The Climate Action Plan was launched in 2009, and the University continues to make significant progress to improve sustainability efforts in all aspects of the campus life and operations.
“I am proud to be the first Ivy League president to take the pledge to reduce our carbon footprint and work with a team that developed real and substantive strategies to help us reach these goals,” Gutmann said.
The Green Campus Partnership was organized to oversee the Climate Action Plan implementation and to keep the stakeholders up to date through a Website, newsletter, events, promotions and social-media outreach.
To support the academic goal of making sustainability part of the educational experience, Penn developed a master’s degree, a new minor and several undergraduate programs and identified 160 sustainability-related courses throughout the curriculum.
In reviewing its utilities and operations, the University set a goal of a 17 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2014 relative to the 2007 baseline. Normalized data for total energy usage – taking into account weather conditions and the increase in square footage of campus buildings -- indicates a 9.5 percent decrease as of this month.
An Energy Reduction Fund was established to propose, prioritize and track energy-saving projects. Penn is recommissioning 80 of the largest campus buildings at the rate of eight per year and is installing meters in the majority of buildings to better manage energy consumption.
Recognized for years as the biggest purchaser of wind power among U.S. colleges and universities, Penn buys 200,000 renewable energy credits annually and has achieved significant savings through such projects as lighting and chiller-plant upgrades.
Penn determined that all new campus buildings and renovations will be designed to achieve a LEED Silver certification or higher. Five projects have been certified, one achieving Platinum, three Gold and one Silver. Seven more projects targeted for LEED are under construction or in planning stages.
Penn Park, a model of sustainable landscape design with its underground storm-water-collection cistern, LED lighting and native plantings, increased campus open space by 20 percent.
The University’s recycling rate now stands at 31 percent, well on its way to achieving the goal of increasing recycling to 40 percent by 2014 from 20 percent in 2008. To continue raising awareness, Penn participates in the annual 10-week RecycleMania competition, has instituted green-purchasing initiatives, has developed an office-products-reuse Website and hosts PennMOVES, a community sale at student move-out. In addition, food is collected for composting in all student dining halls and elsewhere, including residence halls, the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Law School.
As for transportation, the number of bicycle-parking spots was increased to 2,750 and preferred-parking spaces for low-emission vehicles established and electric-car-charging stations are planned. Four new low-emission vans were added to Penn Transit’s shuttle fleet, and vanpooling and car-sharing plans were instituted.
A Student Eco-Reps program was developed in 2009 to build a culture of sustainability among their peers, and a Staff and Faculty Eco-Reps volunteer peer-education program shortly followed in offices and labs.
Penn set up a Green Fund to provide seed funding to innovative sustainability projects that make an impact on the University. Students, faculty and staff can apply for grants up to $50,000, with 36 funded thus far. Thirteen have been completed, and several others should be finished this spring.
Additional information on Penn’s sustainability initiatives and the full Climate Action Plan Progress Report is available at Green Campus Partnership.