President's Message - Penn's Sustainability Initiatives - October 2009

October 21, 2009

Dear Members of our University Community:

Many of you joined me on College Green recently when I unveiled the University’s groundbreaking Climate Action Plan and urged Penn faculty, staff and students to help make Penn America’s greenest urban campus. Now, I’m delighted to tell you that Penn’s sustainability efforts are already getting rave reviews: earlier this month, the Sustainable Endowments Institute announced that Penn was one of only 26 schools in the nation—out of 332 evaluated— recognized this year as College Sustainability Leaders.

This is wonderful achievement, but it does not mean we can slow down our pace.  Our goals are ambitious, and include a five percent reduction of energy consumption across campus by next year—and a 17 percent reduction within five years; doubling our campus recycling efforts by 2014; reducing emissions by motivating the University community to walk, bike, carpool or use public transit to get to campus; adding 20 percent more green space to campus and promoting LEED-certified buildings and landscapes as part of Penn Connects; and ensuring that sustainability issues remain an integral part of Penn’s academic curriculum and the Penn experience.

I have no doubt that we will achieve these goals.  We have a talented and committed community of students, faculty and staff whose efforts will propel Penn forward as a model of achievement in environmental sustainability.   Every day I am inspired by the dedication and determination of Penn’s community members who work on behalf of our environment.  I am particularly grateful to those who have worked as part of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, which was charged with putting together the Climate Action Plan.

Everything that we do as individuals and as a community has an impact. Consider the following two examples, which demonstrate Penn’s everyday commitment to sustainable business practices:

Business Services is promoting sustainability by purchasing foods grown and produced within 150 miles of campus, and in our dining halls we are making a point to serve and promote locally grown products.

The Facilities and Real Estate Services department recently stopped purchasing bottled water—instead giving employees fresh water-filling stations and refillable drinking glasses. (In addition to reducing plastic waste, this effort has the potential to save the University $12,000 this year.)

Just over two years ago, Penn was the first Ivy League institution to sign the Presidential Climate Commitment. Now, more than 600 colleges and universities have joined us, leading the way in addressing the critical need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase research and education to curb the earth's rapidly changing climate.

It is essential for universities to assume a leadership role in worldwide sustainability through research, scholarship and education, as well as sustainable design, construction and operations. Thank you for your efforts to promote sustainability at Penn. To learn more about campus and community sustainability activities, visit


Amy Gutmann