Penn Women’s Center kitchen goes green

When the Penn Women’s Center (PWC) decided to add a kitchen to its 3643 Locust Walk home, Director Felicity Paxton envisioned a space with just a few sustainable features. The PWC ended up with a dedicated green space far beyond Paxton’s wildest dreams.

Over the summer, a former PWC office was transformed into a stylish, completely sustainable kitchen. With its recycled wood cabinets and countertop, energy-saving appliances and worm compost box, the kitchen is a model of sustainability.

Paxton worked with the Green Campus Partnership to develop the kitchen, which was designed by Muscoe Martin, a lecturer in Penn’s School of Design. Nearly half of the financing was provided by the Penn Green Fund.

“I would suggest some humble greenness and they would out-green me,” Paxton says. “It was like we were playing green poker. Every time I would put down a card, they would raise me on it. So we ended up doing all kinds of things I hadn’t even thought about.”


Posted throughout the kitchen, “What makes me green?” signs explain the room’s sustainable features. At the worm composter, the sign reads, “Instead of sending your food scraps to the dump, give them to me!” The hundreds of worms living in the box turn waste into rich, nutrient-filled soil, which the PWC then uses in its garden.

A microwave oven, an essential item in most kitchens, is absent from the PWC kitchen. The “What? No microwave?” sign suggests using a pot to heat up food on the energy efficient, induction stovetop, which uses less energy than a microwave.

Dan Garofalo, environmental sustainability coordinator at Penn, says the PWC kitchen can be used as a teaching tool about green design and environmentally friendly and healthy consumer choices.

“A lot of Penn students will grow up and either renovate a home, rebuild a kitchen of a house they buy, or build a new house over time,” he says. “This is a great introduction to these concepts.”

For information about reserving the PWC’s kitchen, meeting spaces and garden, visit the Penn Women’s Center website.

Green Kitchen