2020 Green Purchasing Awards announced

Line of airplanes parked on an airfield, grounded due to the pandemic.
The pandemic has been an opportunity to reevaluate air travel policies, according to Green Purchasing Award recipient Megan Ryerson. A shift in kitchen waste streams designed by Award recipient Cheryl Hickey will stop approximately 12,000 cups from reaching a landfill each year.

The University of Pennsylvania’s 2020 Green Purchasing Awards, presented by Penn Purchasing Services and Penn Sustainability, were recently announced during the award recipients’ virtual staff meetings.

The award honorees, who are recognized for their outstanding contributions that significantly advance the development of sustaining purchasing at Penn, are Megan Ryerson from the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and Cheryl Hickey from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Ryerson is the UPS Chair of Transportation and associate dean for research in the Weitzman School. In the Spring of 2020, Ryerson incorporated a new aspect to her course CPLN 750: Advanced Transportation Seminar. In a novel approach, she collaborated with Purchasing Services and tasked her graduate students with exploring the sustainability impact associated with Penn’s air travel consumption. Ryerson organized students into groups to assess:

  • the scope of air travel emissions resulting from travel conducted on behalf of the University,
  • the current systems that exist for data collection, and,
  • to conduct surveys of faculty, staff, and students regarding their awareness of air travel emissions and to learn how they make travel decisions.

Students explored travel efficiencies for various modes of transportation and documented best practices to minimize travel-related emissions. Doing so allowed students to gain real-world experience and provided the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee’s Air Travel working group with valuable information to better understand Penn’s air travel practices and options for addressing the resulting carbon emissions. Ryerson’s innovative use of the campus-as-lab concept moves forward the Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0 goal to “support the use of campus-as-lab to promote applied learning.”

Hickey is faculty recruiting coordinator and distinguished lecturer coordinator in the Computer and Information Science (CIS) Department in Penn Engineering. She eliminated a waste stream from the Department’s two kitchens, one inside Levine Hall and another inside Levine North Hall. In February 2020, Hickey made a switch from disposable cups and purchased 150 permanent ceramic replacements to meet the department’s needs. 

This initiative makes a significant contribution to waste minimization in the Engineering Complex and eliminates an ongoing, unsustainable purchase. Since disposable coffee cups are not recyclable, a switch to ceramic mugs will stop approximately 12,000 cups from reaching a landfill each year. This green change also saves CIS $1,355.88 a year: 150 mugs are priced at $145 and a pack of 1,000 disposable cups is $112.99, resulting in savings after one month. Hickey has also encouraged others in the Penn Engineering community to bring in mugs rather than using disposable alternatives.

“It is gratifying to honor Professor Ryerson as the first faculty recipient of the Green Purchasing Award for her contributions regarding air travel sustainability at Penn,” said Mark Mills, Penn’s Chief Procurement Officer. “The leadership she exhibited in the initiative has been rewarding on many levels, both educationally and organizationally. It is also noteworthy that Penn’s vast, decentralized procurement environment presents a challenge to our being fully aware of all the impactful sustainable purchasing initiatives happening around us. Learning about Cheryl Hickey’s initiative in CIS–which can easily be implemented anywhere—and celebrating it with her and others is a key reason that this award exists.”