Penn’s Sustainability Initiatives Get High Grade From Sustainable Endowments Institute

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Media Contact:Julie S. McWilliams | | 215-898-1422October 28, 2010


PHILADELPHIA –- With a grade of A- from the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s College Sustainability Report Card for 2011, the University of Pennsylvania continues to rank among the top U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities for its sustainability initiatives while being recognized for improvements, specifically in green building and administration. 

The report card is an independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities and examines nine categories within an institution to make its determinations: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and stakeholder engagement.

The report card for Penn included:

  • Administration:  The oversight of Penn’s green initiatives by a sustainability coordinator and staff and the success of the Green Fund grant program were cited, as was the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee.
  • Green Building:  All new buildings at Penn must be at least LEED Silver certified.  Pending certification, the University will have three LEED Silver and one Platinum; two more are under construction.  Since 2000, the University has repurposed more than 940,000 square feet of existing building space for alternative use.
  • Climate Change and Energy:  Penn has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions 2 percent since 2007 and aims to achieve a 23 percent reduction by 2014. The University purchases renewable energy credits that represent 45 percent of its energy needs.
  • Food and Recycling:  Thirty percent of Dining Services’ food budget is spent on local products and buys only seafood that conforms to sustainability guidelines, as well as hormone- and antibiotic-free milk and meat items.  Food waste is composted at more than 75 percent of meals, and all dining halls are trayless.  PennMOVES collection and sale at move-out was also cited.
  • Student involvement:  The student Eco-Reps program was cited for raising awareness of environmental issues and encouraging sustainable practices on Penn's campus.  Penn has 12 environmentally focused student groups, one of which recently used Green Fund grant to build an on-campus garden.
  • Transportation:  The report cited the PennPass student transit pass that allows for unlimited rides on buses and subways, as well as Penn’s preferred parking for carpoolers. 
  • Investment Priorities:  Penn aims to optimize investment return and is currently invested in renewable-energy funds.
  • Shareholder Engagement:  The Social Responsibility Advisory Committee, comprised of students, staff, faculty and administrators, makes proxy voting recommendations on environmental and social issues to the trustee committee. 

With an A- overall grade, Penn was included in the 52 schools SEI recognized as Overall College Sustainability leaders, the report card’s highest level of recognition.  

Additional information on Penn’s sustainability initiatives is available at