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A Summary of the Climate Action Plan 2010 Progress Report

November 23, 2010, Volume 57, No. 13



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 trustees and administrators, providing senior leadership that complements the grassroots efforts of an active and engaged campus community.

Penn has made a serious commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and enhancing overall sustainability practices among faculty, students and staff, and in the first year of activation the Plan has produced the following results:

Academics: 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 students enrolled. The Provost’s 2010-11 Academic Theme Year of Water will promote lectures, conferences, discussions, tours and exhibits throughout the year, as well as a student grant program for water conservation, education and awareness projects.

Utilities and Operations: 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 0.43% reduction from the FY 2007 baseline of GHG emissions 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. 

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. As the presentation outlines, efforts 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. 

Physical Environment: Penn constructed the Horticultural Center at the Morris Arboretum to a LEED Platinum standard, as well as the Music Building, Weiss Pavilion and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine to a LEED Silver standard. The 14-acre Penn Park is under construction, which will increase campus green space by 20% when it opens in Fall 2011­—producing 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, Facilities and Real Estate Services organized a number of staff training programs to expand knowledge of high performance design and construction standards. 

Transportation: A more livable campus with easy access to public and alternative transit is being realized via Penn Transit’s new bi-fuel transit vehicles, expansion of electric car charging stations, student/faculty/staff car-sharing programs and designing a campus accommodating bicycling and pedestrian commuters.  

Waste and Recycling: Campus recycling increased to 27% through September 2010 from 17% in 2007, signifying an 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, recycling of restroom materials, and pilots conducted for desk-side recycling options.  

Communications: A marketing communications strategy developed the identity of the Penn Green Campus Partnership and raised awareness of the broad range of sustainability efforts and initiatives across the campus via an active website recording close to 100 hits daily, campus- wide e-newsletter, dozens of promotional events and over 340 sustainability stories generated by local, regional and national media outlets.  

Outreach and Engagement: In building a culture of sustainability at the grassroots level, over 200 Eco-Reps now serve Penn students, faculty, and staff with best green practices; more than 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 eight Schools and Centers now have their own Sustainability Coordinators.


Almanac - November 23, 2010, Volume 57, No. 13