Penn progresses toward Climate Action Plan goals

Eco-Reps. Green Fund. Power Down Challenge. LEED Gold.

A decade ago, these terms had little relevance to the Penn community, but since the University launched its Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2009, they have become part of our everyday parlance, signifying Penn’s commitment to sustainability.

After President Amy Gutmann signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, the University developed the CAP to improve green initiatives across campus. The plan outlines specific goals for energy reduction, waste minimization, emissions reduction, sustainable building and the education of the campus community about lowering Penn's carbon footprint.

Also in 2007, baseline measures were taken to compare progress after the CAP initiatives were put in place.

So where do we stand?  

-- Academics: Penn now offers students an integrated program in energy research, a master’s program in environmental building design, an environmental management minor, and more than 160 classes related to sustainability.

-- Utilities and Operations: When normalized for weather and square footage, total campus energy usage shows a 9.5 percent decrease versus the baseline. Penn has seen a 0.12 percent decrease in electric usage but the University has also seen a 6.89 percent increase in the use of steam after two years because of extreme weather conditions and the opening of five new buildings since 2007.

-- Physical Environment: Penn Park increased the campus’ open space by 20 percent, and the University now has a total of five new buildings and renovation projects that have achieved LEED designation since 2009.

-- Transportation: Penn expanded public and alternative transportation options, added new bi-fuel transit vehicles to its fleet, expanded car-sharing programs, and increased bike parking spots totaling 2,750.

-- Waste Minimization: The campus’ recycling rate increased from 20 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2011, spurred by efforts such as RecycleMania, PennMOVES, and composting.

-- Outreach & Engagement: Some 100-plus Student Eco-Reps, 80 Staff and Faculty Eco-Reps, and sustainability coordinators in seven schools and centers have increased environmental awareness and positive behavior on campus.

“We have made a shift in our culture and how we think, behave, and conduct business,” says Dan Garofalo, Penn’s sustainability coordinator. “Sustainability is integrated into the everyday fabric of this University. Moving forward, continued support from the Penn community is needed for us to build upon this progress and achieve our long-term goals.”

Through strategies such as capital investment and behavior change, improved low-carbon energy sourcing and the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates and offsets, the campus will continue to respond to global climate change and work towards the goal of reducing its carbon footprint. 

To see the entire two-year report, visit 
the Green Campus Partnership website.