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The Red & Blue is Going Green: Calling Climate Commitment and Concern for the Environment
November 13, 2007, Volume 54, No. 12



President Gutmann’s signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in February—the first Ivy League President to do so—demonstrated Penn’s determination to seriously address the issue of global climate change. Although the University’s comprehensive sustainability plan won’t be complete until 2009, many in the Penn community are already embracing the challenge to lower the University’s carbon footprint. As an example, this year’s Faculty and Staff Telephone Directory is, for the first time, being printed on 100% recycled paper using biodegradable soy-based inks. But the directory is just one of many efforts, both large and small, that are already underway across the University. A sampling of others is provided below.

Green Roofs: The University has several green (vegetated) roofs, including the Wharton School building, Jon M. Huntsman Hall, and the new Hill Pavilion, a teaching and research building for the School of Veterinary Medicine. These green roofs reduce cooling loads for the building beneath, retain storm water to help manage campus discharge, support additional habitats for birds, provide visual relief for neighbors in taller buildings, and (sometimes) provide a usable outdoor space for activities. In addition to these existing projects, Penn’s first green roof renovation project—replacing an existing rubber roof with a sedum vegetated roof—was completed this September on King’s Court English House.

Construction Waste Management/Salvage:Working with a local waste management company, Penn has established a protocol for salvaging valuable materials whenever a demolition is unavoidable. During the demolition of the former Philadelphia Convention Hall to make way for a new Center for Advanced Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn partnered with Second Chance, a deconstruction and salvage company. Second Chance supplied labor at no cost, and saved about $600,000 worth of light fixtures, railings, carved stone and registers for resale throughout the region. Other large projects on campus also have on-site materials separation protocols to ensure that carpet scraps, metals, ceiling tile, and drywall are recycled.

Paving & Site Work: Routinely, Penn salvages all stonework and paving materials from renovations and upgrades to campus landscapes. The Civic House interpretive native garden, competed in 2007, reused paving stones from the 2004 renovation of Annenberg Plaza and surplus pavers from the Levine Hall renovation of 1996. The benches are salvaged 19th century granite curbstone and all paving is set in a sand bed to facilitate infiltration of storm water.

LEED Certification: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is the most commonly recognized standard for measuring building sustainability and Penn has several projects underway that are seeking certification. The Center for Advanced Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, a $350 million clinical facility, is on track to receive a Silver LEED rating. The Horticulture Center at the Morris Arboretum, now in design development, is targeting LEED Platinum, the highest level of certification. In addition, there are several building projects under active consideration and review which have not yet been formalized as capital projects. A new NanoFabrication Center, a new home for the School of Design, and a new College House are all expected to adopt high performance building standards and to consider LEED certification.

Energy Efficiency: The University has commissioned the TC Chan Center, a research institute run jointly by the Penn School of Design and Tsinghua University (Beijing), to carry out several research projects in 2007-2008 to address energy efficiency.

High Rise Monitoring: The project will provide students with real-time, interactive feedback on building and apartment energy use. Primary meters have been installed in Harnwell College House to measure steam, chilled water, and total energy use, and electrical meters were placed in individual apartments which can monitor energy use at the level of the individual unit.

Greenhouse Gas Inventory: A comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gasses on campus, including campus energy use, fuel use for the University fleet, and gasses generated from waste operations should be completed this fall.

Building Performance Assessment Tool: In 2006, the Chan Center developed an energy modeling tool that can be used to predict the energy performance of each building on campus. Based on US Department of Energy and European models, the tool provides a “virtual meter” for Penn’s 140 on-campus buildings, the vast majority of which are not metered. The intent of the project, which is about 50% complete, is to identify high- and low-performing buildings, so that resources can be applied intelligently to conserve energy on campus.

Subsidized Public Transit: Penn Transit offers a number of programs that encourage students, faculty and staff to use public transportation. PennPass, a transit pass system, allows students to take unlimited rides on Philadelphia buses and subways and within the Regional Rail system on weekends and holidays. In addition, for students living in New Jersey, a 25% discount for New Jersey Transit commuter passes for the PATCO speed line is available. The Compass Program provides a pre-tax discount to faculty and staff for all public transit in Philadelphia and the regional rail system, and was used by over 10% of Penn’s workforce in fiscal year 2007. For members of the Penn community who use public transit less routinely, pre-tax Transit Checks are available and can be redeemed for tickets or passes through a number of public transit agencies, including NJ Transit, SEPTA, and Amtrak. 

Local Penn Transit Options: To make it easier for members of the Penn community to travel around campus and to reduce the number of cars being brought to West Philadelphia by students, faculty, and staff, Penn operates or subsidizes several transit options around campus. LUCY (Loop through University City) shuttles passengers between the regional train station and campus and is free for all members of the University community. Penn Bus and Penn Shuttle run several overlapping passenger routes around campus between 5 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. and on an on-call basis all night until 7 a.m. Penn Van Pool service provides passenger vans to self-organized groups. Benefits to van poolers include premium parking options (close to campus) and greatly reduced costs, all while taking cars off the road. Penn has also partnered with PhillyCarShare, a local non-profit, to provide eight parking spaces for PhillyCarShare autos available to members of the program.

BioDiesel Commitment: Penn has partnered with a local biodiesel supplier and manufacturer, The Energy Cooperative, to investigate and promote the use of biodiesel in the campus fleet. In June, Penn’s Facilities and Business Services Divisions participated in a trial of a new, locally made biodiesel product manufactured from local restaurants’ grease traps. Two University vehicles, one maintenance pickup truck and one PennTransit passenger van, tracked mileage and performance using a B100 biodiesel product, as part of The Energy Cooperative’s ongoing research and product development. Penn is investigating installing an on-campus biodiesel filling station to take advantage of The Energy Cooperative’s initiative when they are manufacturing biodiesel to scale by the end of 2008. Penn has committed to having its four dining halls’ grease traps serviced by the Energy Cooperative when the plant is operational.

Waste Reduction: The first step in managing solid waste is to reduce it. Efforts at Penn include:

• Reusable mugs are being offered at the Bookstore Café which allow users to get a discount on hot drinks.

• Penn Dining offers biodegradable to-go containers at all Penn residential dining halls’ take-out services; reusable beverage mugs and bottles for purchase with a discount for refills; and sells reusable bags for $1 made from recycled materials, with a discount offered when used at Penn dining locations. Styrofoam products are also being eliminated throughout the dining program.

• Penn Dining’s food waste composting project sends pre-consumer food waste to a local composting facility.

• The New Bolton Center’s large animal veterinary campus recycles 100% of its farm waste.

• Penn Mail Services recycles on average of 400 pounds of “no value” mail each month.

• Information Systems and Computing (ISC) is working on GreenIT initiatives including recycling used computers and monitoring computer energy use.

• The Sustainable Purchasing initiative at Business Services seeks to increase the purchase of products with a reduced or minimal environmental impact as compared to other similar products and services that serve the same purpose.

Leaf and Lawn Waste: Over 650 cubic yards of leaves—100% of the leaves from Penn’s campus—are composted and used on campus gardens and fields as top dressing, saving both the cost and energy to dispose of the leaves. The University’s Morris Arboretum partners with the adjacent Springfield Township to compost all township leaf and garden waste. The compost is then available to any township resident as well as to the arboretum for gardening and plant maintenance.

Recycling: In FY 2006, the University recycled about 15% of its total “landfill waste” stream—about 1,330 tons. This number represents only the most accessible percentage of waste diverted from the landfill to a local recycling center, and includes paper, bottles, and cans (plastic, glass, and metals). To capture recycling in outdoor areas, from those passing through campus to its residents and employees, 35 steel “triplets” have been placed across campus which have separate bins for paper and cardboard, bottles and cans, and trash. Each container will have a payback in about seven years of avoided landfill costs. Finally, Penn recycles all fluorescent bulbs replaced in re-lamping projects to reduce mercury content in our waste stream. (Even though Penn buys 100% green fluorescent bulbs, there are trace amounts of mercury in the tubes.)

Recycle Mania: This spring several College Houses plan to participate in the EPA’s Recycle Mania, a friendly competition among college and university reccling programs that provides the campus community with a fun, proactive activity in waste reduction. The main goal is to increase student awareness of campus recycling and waste minimization. Over a 10-week period, campuses compete to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, or have the highest recycling rate.

Sustainable Agriculture: Penn Dining has developed a number of innovative ways to support local sustainable agriculture. The FarmEcology food stand in Houston Market allows students to select local foods using their meal plans, breads from a local bakery and desserts from local providers are also served regularly. At least once each semester, the dining facilities sponsor a “Local Foods” dinner for all students on meal plans, featuring local growers and lectures about local and sustainable food practices. Since May of 2006, Penn has had an on-campus, local-products-only farmers market which expanded to a second location on Locust Walk this fall. Penn Dining’s Dollars are available for use at this new location.

In addition to these activities, there are a number of groups on campus, such as The Green Campus Partnership and the Penn Environmental Group, who have been working to promote active engagement around sustainability issues across the University. Through a combination of action and advocacy, our campus community has many “green leaders” who are helping to raise environmental awareness at Penn and move this University into the vanguard on global climate change—this century’s defining issue.

(The projects listed here are not meant to be an all inclusive list of sustainability activities at Penn. If you have questions or would like more information about these activities, email greenup@upenn.edu)



Almanac - November 13, 2007, Volume 54, No. 12