Penn Puts Out Green Plan

September 16, 2009

Sandy Bauers, Philadelphia Inquirer -- About an hour ago, Penn president Amy Gutmann announced the university's new Climate Action Plan, which calls for all sorts of green upgrades. Penn is one of several in the region that signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment pledge...

...which required the schools to assess their emissions and submit long-range plans for reducing their carbon footprints. By now, more than 600 college and universities have signed the pledge.

“Penn is proud to be an environmental leader among American colleges and universities,” Gutmann said, according to publicity information provided by the university. “Our new Climate Action Plan outlines the next bold steps we will take to further reduce our carbon footprint, including strategies to promote recycling, increase energy efficiency and apply innovative design and construction methods. The health of our planet depends on our actions and Penn is committed to leading higher education’s green revolution into the future.”

Penn has created a sustainability coordinator position. Its greenhouse gas inventory was conducted by the School of Design’s TC Chan Center for Energy Simulation. A committee of faculty members, students and staffers developed the goals of the plan. Penn describes them this way:

  • Conserve energy: Achieve a 5 percent reduction of energy across campus by 2010 and a 17 percent reduction by 2014.
  • Minimize waste: Achieve a 100 percent increase in recycling across campus by 2014 -- from the current 20 percent diversion rate to 40 percent.
  • Reduce auto emissions: Motivate more than half of the University population to walk, bike, and carpool or use public transit for their commute.
  • Design green: Build new LEED-certified buildings and landscapes as part of the 30-year Penn Connects campus master plan, and retrofit and re-commission existing buildings in a more sustainable way.
  • Learn sustainability: Ensure that the whole Penn community has the opportunity to learn about the issues of sustainability as an integral part of the curriculum and as part of the Penn experience.

Penn has begun implementing some of the goals, and here are some of the steps it is highlighting:

  • PennGreen, the University’s four-day pre-orientation program introduced 40 new students to Philadelphia’s leading environmental initiatives.
  • The university has hired a new dining services vendor Bon Appetit, known for its sustainable food sourcing.
  • Resident halls now have “eco-reps” - student volunteers providing information on energy use, recycling and other environmental concerns.
  • University purchasing agents are now being directed to sustainable choices.
  • A new “Green Fund” will make available up to $50,000 to any group in the Penn community that aims to change behavior, educate or implement technical solutions that reduce campus emissions and improve sustainability.

Incidentally — and counted as part of the goals — Penn recently purchased commencement caps and gowns made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

The full Climate Action Plan is available at

Originally posted on "Green Space," the blog of Philadelphia Inquirer environmental reporter Sandy Bauers.

Share a Story

Do you have a sustainability story to share with the campus? Want to hear more about a specific topic or project?
Send us an email
and we'll consider the content for inclusion on the website or in a future e-newsletter.