Environmental sustainability is a defining issue of the 21st century, and higher education can play a leadership role in addressing global climate change. Through the research, teaching, and operational practices articulated in its Climate Action Plan 2.0, Penn is dedicated to promoting a sustainable culture and implementing environmentally conscious policies.
Penn seeks to incorporate issues relating to climate change and sustainability into curricular and co-curricular offerings for all students. The numerous initiatives that grew out of the institutional priority now fall under the Penn Sustainability, which continues to introduce programs, collaborate with the Office of the Provost, and expand opportunities for relevant research and internships, all with a primary focus on students.
The most significant way to reduce the University’s carbon footprint is by decreasing energy consumption. Because of this, an extensive energy management and conservation strategy figures prominently in Penn’s Climate Action Plan 2.0.
One of the world's most attractive urban campuses, Penn is home to significant achievements in planning, landscape design, and architecture. The award-winning Penn Connects campus development plan is steering Penn's commitment to a healthy built environment. Following the recommendations of the Climate Action Plan 2.0, Penn is implementing new strategies to increase ecologically managed green space, decrease energy consumption, and promote awareness of sustainable design.
Putting Mussels to the Test
With a mussel hatchery in the future for the Schuylkill River, students in Byron Sherwood’s field biology course used scientific rigor to ask how effectively these filter feeders might render the water clean.
While waste may not be the largest contributor to Penn's carbon footprint, it is certainly the most visible. Penn’s outreach campaigns such as inspire individuals to adopt the mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle" across campus. Climate Action Plan 2.0 and Penn’s Solid Waste Management Plan call on the University to decrease its municipal solid waste and increase its recycling rate by continuing to refine management of the five common waste streams on campus: landfill trash, single-stream recycling, compost, universal waste, and miscellaneous waste.
As the largest private employer in greater Philadelphia and a destination for thousands of daily commuters, Penn recognizes the significant impact of auto travel on the environment. The University launched its Sustainable Transportation Initiative in 2010 to work toward lowering the University's carbon footprint. The Climate Action Plan 2.0 continues these efforts by emphasizing new programs and services designed to provide faculty, staff and students with a wider array of environmentally sustainable commuting options.
Farm to Campus, From Prep to Dining—and More Dining
Penn Dining Services cook up delicious, locally sourced, healthy, and abundant meals at nearly all hours of the day, an operation that starts locally and ends on plates licked clean.
Penn's Sustainable Purchasing Initiative seeks to increase the purchase of products with a reduced or minimal (ideally zero) environmental impact compared to similar products and services that serve the same purpose. This initiative encourages the University's preferred suppliers to offer products that promote environmental stewardship, inviting Penn faculty and staff to fulfill their purchase requirements with environmentally friendly products.
Penn Dining is firmly committed to providing its community with sustainably produced, locally sourced food, and has partnered with Bon Appétit Management Company to achieve this end. Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork initiative enables Penn to purchase local, healthy, flavorful food produced through practices that respect farm workers and animals and replenish our shared natural resources for future generations. This commitment invites students, staff, and faculty to engage in educational opportunities about healthy lifestyle choices, sustainable agriculture and a low-carbon diet.
Penn abounds with opportunities for students, faculty and staff to research, learn about, advocate for, and implement sustainability practices on campus and beyond.
The mission of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science is to bring the time perspective of the Earth scientist to bear on contemporary problems of natural resource conservation and environmental quality.
The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy focuses on projects that foster thoughtful and impactful energy-related research, develop the next generation of energy leaders, and create conditions for energy policy stakeholders to explore options and develop agendas.
Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities is a collective of scholars, students, artists, scientists, and educators whose mission is to generate local and global awareness and engagement in the emergent area of the environmental humanities.