It's easy being green

Since the launch of the Climate Action Plan in September 2009, the Penn community has learned that a few small actions go a long way toward energy conservation.

That is why the Green Campus Partnership has organized the second holiday Power Down Challenge for this December (details available at, to have students, staff and faculty turn off and unplug before leaving for the winter break. The Power Down is one way its Penn community can help the University reach the Climate Action Plan environmental goals.

And after one year of action, progress has been made towards reaching those goals. In the past year, more than 200 staff and student Eco-Reps have coordinated and encouraged sustainable practices at College Houses, laboratories and offices. Eight schools and centers also added sustainability coordinators.

In addition, a Green Fund was created to award grants to Penn faculty, students and staff who develop innovative ideas for a greener campus, with 18 grants already in various stages of implementation. On the academic side, Penn students can now choose from more than 150 classes directly related to sustainability and the environment, and more than 140 students have declared environmental majors or minors. The Year of Water academic theme is promoting the critical importance of clean, potable water in classes, workshops and events across campus.

Campus recycling increased from 17 percent in 2007 to 27 percent in 2010, through efforts such as RecycleMania, PennMOVES and new composting initiatives by Penn Dining. This year, the campus will see an increase in conveniently placed indoor and outdoor recycling bins. 

Penn Transit’s new bi-fuel vehicles, car-sharing programs and bicycling/pedestrian accommodations are all designed to showcase the walkability of the campus and easy access to public and alternative transit (see related story, here).   

Penn is also building with a focus on sustainability. The Horticulture Center at the Morris Arboretum, which is targeting LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, is a highlight of Penn’s commitment to constructing efficient buildings. In addition, the new Music Building, the Weiss Pavilion and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine are targeting LEED Silver certification. Penn Park, scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, will increase campus green space by 20 percent and improve stormwater management for the campus and city.

Also, in an effort to reduce the University’s carbon footprint, Penn has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 0.43 percent and has achieved a 2.6 percent decrease in electrical use.

“The inaugural year of the Climate Action Plan established the foundation to achieve Penn’s long-range goals of a greener campus,” says Craig Carnaroli, Penn’s executive vice president. “These various initiatives—peer-to-peer outreach and engagement—combine to build a culture in which we can accomplish real change."

To learn more about the winter break Power Down and other campus sustainability initiatives, go to