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Penn's sustainability office follows the city's building code requirements while also launching its own initiatives with higher standards for climate action.  (File Photo)

In Penn's most recent Climate Action Plan 2.0, Penn President Amy Gutmann outlines a proposal to make the University carbon neutral by 2042. In 2016, the City of Philadelphia also declared its goal of reducing the city's carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Both Penn and Philadelphia have their own sustainability offices, and similar to their carbon emission targets, Penn shares the city's overall goals while setting its own stricter guidelines. As a university with a smaller reach than the City of Philadelphia, Penn can set more ambitious targets to combat climate change.

The two offices share a close but informal relationship, with Penn following the city's building code requirements while also launching its own initiatives. Dan Garofalo, Penn’s Director of Sustainability, said he also meets several times a year with Philadelphia’s Sustainability Office Director Christine Knapp to share plans and update each other on their progress.

While Garofalo pointed to areas where Penn and Philadelphia's efforts diverge in their specific focus, such as neighborhood clean-ups and improving community access to resources, he also said the two share the broad aims of fighting climate change. 

“If you look at it by initiatives, we’re trying to do things that they’re trying to do," Garofalo said. "We’re supporting their overall goals: improve efficiency, reduce energy use, improve recycling."

Penn is required to fulfill certain Philadelphia sustainability laws, Knapp said, including the Energy Benchmarking Law. This law requires buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to send the city their energy and water consumption data, which is then made public. 

Credit: Mona Lee

By law, Penn is required to send the city their energy and water consumption data for buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to, which is then made public. 

Knapp also mentioned codes that require any new buildings to be “much more efficient” than the ones built in the past.

“That was a real success for the city and the state to update the building code for all commercial buildings being built in Philly,” Garofalo said. 

Beyond these regulations, Philadelphia’s Sustainability Office has launched the Greenworks Initiative, which has eight key plans including improving access to clean drinking water and achieving zero waste. A subset of this initiative is Greenworks on the Ground, which encourages institutions such as universities to help reach the “visions” of the plan, through actions like purchasing local food and encouraging public transportation usage.

Although participation in Greenworks is optional, Garofalo said he has reviewed the initiative and has copies of their latest publications. Founding faculty director of Penn's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy Mark Alan Hughes also helped develop Greenworks when he worked for the city.

Credit: Mona Lee

Dan Garofalo, Penn’s Director of Sustainability, is putting the finishing touches on a new five-year climate sustainability plan coming out in fall 2019.

Garofalo said his office was monitoring long-term goals set by the city and state governments. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s goal for the city is to cut carbon by 80 percent by 2050, which Garofalo said was similar to the targets of Governor Wolf and some municipalities. 

“Amy Gutmann’s goal for Penn is carbon neutral by 2042. So these [goals] are very close,” Garofalo said. “If anything, ambition is a little higher than the city’s in that regard.”

William Braham, director of Penn's Center for Environmental Building & Design, referred to Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability as “ambitious” and “strategic” in its use of resources, considering its title of the poorest big city in America.

“Penn has been remarkably inventive and also ambitious in setting up its sustainability plan,” Braham said.

Garofalo said he was putting the finishing touches on a new five-year climate sustainability plan that will be released in fall 2019.

“We haven’t finalized that yet, but we’re definitely looking at what the city’s doing and trying to align with the long-term goals of Penn’s carbon neutrality goal,” Garofalo said.

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