Green Office Program awards campus buildings that work toward sustainability

Reducing Penn’s carbon footprint has been a part of the University’s commitment to sustainability since the launch of the Climate Action Plan in 2009. Campus buildings constitute some of the University’s largest producers of carbon, causing more than three-quarters of Penn’s emissions.

To reduce carbon emissions in buildings on campus, the Green Campus Partnership, located within Facilities & Real Estate Services, created the Green Office Program. Participants receive points—one for easy-to-implement actions, four for tougher changes—to attain up to a Level 4 certification, which lasts for two years. Since the program’s inception, 67 offices across campus have joined the workplace sustainability effort.

Level one requires 25 points, which can come from actions like providing reusable coffee mugs or reinforcing recycling practices. Higher points come from changes that may require upfront capital, like installing a water filtration system or purchasing “smart” programmable power strips that get shut down nightly. To hit Level 4, a site needs 180 or more points.   

Wharton Operations recently recertified at the highest level.

“We thought it would be best to lead by example, to show what we’re trying to do with our facilities and in our operations, that we’re actually doing it ourselves,” says David Mazzocco, associate director of sustainability and projects for Wharton Operations.

Mazzocco’s office tallied 242 points, besting the previous high score of 205 earned by Wharton’s Finance & Administration department. Although Penn Sustainability Coordinator Rebecca Sokol is pleased to see teams aim high—a little competition tends to help—she also says most Penn offices do many of the simple actions on the program’s 250-item checklist already. They just don’t know it.

“You can achieve Level 1 without really having to add anything. You can look at your office practices and most of the time they’ll already be at that level,” she says. “That you should be able to complete pretty quickly. As you [move] up, it takes longer.”

The Green Office Program aims to make offices aware of the eco-friendly steps they already take and show them it’s not hard to do more, Sokol says.

“It brings Penn’s Climate Action Plan down to the localized level where people can start making a difference,” she adds. Plus, they can apply what they’ve learned to sustainable practices at home.

For his part, Mazzocco says he wants his team and others at Wharton to do more. Given his office’s basement locale, that space will likely never get the windows necessary to earn more points from the program’s “Energy” section, but it doesn’t matter; he cares about making his colleagues aware of the University’s sustainability efforts and what role they can play.

“As great as it is to have these two giant Level 4 point totals,” he says, “I would be just as happy to see 20 Level 1 departments in Wharton.”

For more information about the Green Office Program, visit the Green Campus Partnership website.