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Penn has completed the first year of its five-year action plan to improve and raise awareness of the community's environmental footprint.

Credit: Ananya Chandra

As of last week, the University’s Climate Action Plan 2.0 has completed one year of scaling down and raising awareness of the Penn community’s environmental footprint.

The five-year action plan consists of a series of initiatives designed to engage students and faculty in tackling the challenges lying in the way of a greener campus. According to Sarah Fisher, a sustainability strategic planner at Facilities and Real Estate Services, the engagement demonstrated so far has revealed “a community well-versed in sustainability.” As the “Rethink Your Footprint” campaign enters its third year, events are being planned throughout the month of November in order to raise awareness about individual actions that can help mitigate the environmental strain caused by a large and busy community.

Ever since joining the nation-wide “Recyclemania” campaign, FRES has sponsored efforts to curb Penn’s waste. Rather than focus solely on recycling, however, the more recent efforts also concern green purchasing and source reduction. One such effort is the partnership between the University and Wash Cycle Laundry, founded by 2005 Wharton graduate Gabriel Mandujano. Student Eco Reps have been assigned to college houses, assisting in projects such as the upkeep of Bartram’s Garden.

Instead of engaging in the “crazy tracking of numbers in Recyclemania,” as Heidi Wunder, assistant director of communications for FRES, said, Rethink Your Footprint is concerned mostly with raising awareness. It has planned two documentary screenings in ARCH 108, from noon to 1 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 11, showing “Addicted to Plastic” and “Trash Dance” on the respective dates. E-Waste collection days are also being held every Thursday of November excluding Thanksgiving.

Students and faculty can access the Green Campus Partnership’s website in order to learn how to obtain their Green Living Certification. After completing a short survey and achieving designated goals such as reporting water leaks, participants can gain prizes such as a mug that can showcase their environmental commitment. The certificate serves as a way to help people who want to decrease their carbon and waste footprint but do not know how, Fisher said. Urging students to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink, Fisher said that Rethink Your Footprint aims to produce tangible results that will reverberate across the student body and faculty.

“Sustainability is talked about more and more on campus,” Fisher said, “but not everyone can, say, change the windows in a building.” In order to maximize each person’s waste reduction, the campaign seeks to inform them of all the resources at their disposal on campus. Fisher added that the project aims to provide a “portfolio of tools” which “people can use in their own spaces.”

With Rethink Your Footprint, FRES proposes what Fisher calls “behavior change everyone can do”.

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