After five years of improving environmental sustainability on campus, Penn announced on Tuesday afternoon the University’s next steps to make the campus as environmentally friendly as possible.
As part of Penn’s Climate Action Plan 2.0, the University will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in projects that span from remodeling the top 20 percent of campus buildings that have the highest energy use to increasing the number of zero-waste events on campus each year.
While the University does not have an exact dollar amount for how much it plans to spend on sustainability efforts over the next few years, several aspects of the University’s plan include $190 million earmarked for making campus buildings more eco-friendly, as well as other annual facilities funding for sustainability efforts.
The new plan’s goals build on those in the University’s first Climate Action Plan, which was published in 2009. Under the new plan, Penn aims to reduce energy use by 10 percent, increase campus-wide recycling from 24 percent to 30 percent and reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent by 2019 . By 2042, the University aims to become carbon neutral — producing net-zero carbon emissions.
One of main tenants of the plan, though, is to increase student and faculty knowledge about environmental stewardship on campus.
“There is an intangible benefit that you can’t measure, which I think we all believe is the biggest benefit of all — education,” said University Architect David Hollenberg, who oversees Penn’s sustainability efforts. “That’s what the mission of this place is: education [and] research. You’re all going to graduate and you’re going to be leaders in whatever you choose to do and you’re going to come from a place where this” — environmental sustainability — “is part of the culture, and you’re just going to spread that.”
The new action plan will increase student involvement in sustainability efforts through an expansion of several programs, including the Eco-Reps program — students and faculty who promote recycling and energy conservation — and the Green Living Certification Program . The University also plans to create both a speaker series or symposium dedicated to sustainability and a faculty working group on sustainability to help faculty interested in teaching and researching sustainability.
“There are a lot of opportunities for the students, and the staff for that matter, to get involved in sustainability efforts under this new plan,” Dan Garofalo, Penn’s sustainability director, said.
This is important because the success of the new plan is incredibly reliant on student involvement.
“It is very contingent on student behavior,” Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate Services Anne Papageorge said.
The new climate plan comes seven years after Penn President Amy Gutmann signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which required Penn to drastically reduce carbon emissions, promote environmental educational opportunities, reduce energy use and to create climate action plans to achieve these goals.
While Penn is one of 600 universities to sign this pledge nationwide, the only other Ivy League school to sign the pledge was Cornell University.
“There was a lot of debate among universities” about whether to sign, Papageorge recalled. “I can speak to how Dr. Gutmann viewed it — or at least how she talked about it back in 2007 — and that this is an aspirational goal and we will do our best to get to get to this goal.”
Since signing the pledge, Penn has achieved or came close to many of the goals set out by its original climate plan.
Penn’s carbon emissions have decreased by 18 percent since 2007. Penn’s campus has also seen a roughly 10 percent reduction in the amount of waste transported to landfills, and all new buildings on campus have received LEED Gold Certification.
In terms of education, Penn now offers 170 courses related to sustainability, and has created a minor in Sustainability & Environmental Management, a masters in Environmental Design and the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research.
However, there are still a few goals the University did not reach within their intended time frame.
The rate of recycling has decreased by 7 percent since 2011. Currently at 26 percent, the rate of recycling on campus is 14 percent lower than the target rate of 40 percent outlined in the 2009 Action Plan.
FRES Director of Maintenance & Operations Ken Ogawa said this was because “we are a victim of our own success.” Since Penn has reduced its overall waste, students and staff have been using fewer products, and therefore fewer recyclable materials — which Ogawa said could have contributed to the lower recycling rate.
Penn’s absolute energy usage has also risen by 5.1 percent since 2007. However, after adjusting for the University’s expansion — Penn expanded by over 1 million square feet in this time frame — as well as weather discrepancies, Penn’s adjusted energy usage is down by 6.6 percent.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Ken Ogawa’s name.Comments powered by Disqus
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