Pitt Climate Action: How You Can Help

There is no question we’re in a climate emergency, but we have the tools at hand to combat it – and it will take every one of us to do so.  Alongside the University’s Climate Action Plan, your decisions at Pitt, at home, and around the world make a difference, representing everyday opportunity to positively impact our lives here in Pittsburgh, as well as those of other communities around the world.  Together, we are part of the solution and can build a brighter equitable future for all. 

Most Americans are cautious, concerned, and alarmed about climate change, but understand that our individual and collective actions need to speed up and expand. 

Every person, every action, every purchase, and every voice can bring us one step closer to keeping climate change in check.  Thank you for supporting our efforts here at Pitt! 

“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.” – Octavia E. Butler

 

Make a Difference

On Campus        At Home        Everyday

On Campus

The Pitt Climate Action Plan charts the University’s path to carbon neutrality by 2037, but your actions on campus are a big part of that future achievement

Commuting

The University of Pittsburgh estimates that 68% of employees and 98% of students already make shared or active commutes to campus, but 32% of employees still drive alone. Given that the average Pitt employee commute is 10 miles one-way, not every employee even has the opportunity to take transit, bike, or walk.   

  • What You Can Do: If you’re already making shared and active mobility decisions on a regular basis, keep it up, thank you! If you are currently commuting to Pitt alone in a car, try making different commuting decision one day a week (or even seasonally). As we take this journey together, every Pitt community member will continue to make important daily and trip decisions that will help us reach our carbon neutrality goals.  If you’re a driver,
    • You might first consider carpooling (2+ people) or vanpooling (5+ people); Pitt can help match you! Learn more.   
    • Even driving to a Park & Ride where you park and then hop on a bus can likely halve your carbon emissions — and get you out of trying to park in Oakland. 
    • Transit – Don’t forget that our Pitt ID allows you to ride for free on Port Authority buses and the T.  Being able to zone out during your commute is priceless, plus you might be able to get near door to door service!  Learn more. 
    • Active commuting can help you stay healthy, happy, flexible, & reduce your GHGs!  
      • Biking: The University of Pittsburgh has been recognized as a Silver Bicycle Friendly University for our efforts to promote and enable safe, accessible bicycling on campus. Check out the Pitt Biking page for bike maps, storage solutions, safety tips, and more!   
      • Bike Share: DYK all Pitt students and employees get free, unlimited 30-minute rides on, faculty Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike sharing system? Learn more about Healthy Ride at Pitt! 
      • Walking to campus is good for your body, mind, and the climate!  Learn more

        • Find out what the “5 surprising benefits of walking” are, including that people who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less — and if they did get sick, their symptoms were milder and for less time.  
        • The Panther Walking Route encourages lunchtime walks around campus!
        • WalkPittsburgh offers walking trails and maps of neighborhoods around Pittsburgh. 
    • Scooters
      • If you feel safe on electric scooters and follow the rules, they can help reduce car and ride hailing trips. 
      • Quick Tips: Wear a helmet, go slow, stay off sidewalks, & respect pedestrians, bikes, & motor vehicles. 
      • Read everything you need to know about e-scooters (from BikePGH).
      • If you see improper scooter riding, parking, or a damaged vehicle, report it using the Spin App.  
    • Driving

Flex Work – Activating Pitt’s Flex Work Arrangement opportunity can help support our journey towards carbon neutrality by avoiding your commute entirely when you work from home!  The PittCAP estimates that flex work will help Pitt avoid 4,100 MT CO2e annually!

Pitt Green Designations – Pursuing a Pitt Green designation can demonstrate your active support for Pitt’s climate-friendly efforts.  Pitt Green designations recognize your existing sustainable practices and can help you add more to your workflow or daily decisions. We have options for offices (on-campus and at home), labs, events, residents, and student organizations! 

Sustainable Purchasing – GHG emissions resulting from campus-wide purchasing habits are reflected in Scope 3 of our annual GHG inventory. If you make purchasing decisions for Pitt, you can help ensure our supply chain emissions are more climate -friendly purchases that reduce energy and life cycle impacts while supporting local and diverse purchasing.  Space and equipment decisions are extra important.  Need help?  Check out Pitt Purchasing’s resources!

Office Space Optimization – With hybrid and flexible work arrangements available to many University of Pittsburgh employees, some departments are optimizing their physical spaces by creating shared desks and work areas that are better sized for who is on-campus at the same time. The PittCAP estimates optimizing office space help contribute to a GHG reduction of 2,900 MT CO2e by 2037!  You don’t have to reorganize your whole office to support this strategy; start small by sharing work spaces using Outlook.

Air Travel – Pitt air travel for conferences, study abroad, and other university-related travel accounts for 21.1% of our greenhouse gas emissions!  As a result, we’re asking everyone to look for opportunities to reduce and offset their air travel; please consider:

  1. Attending conferences and speaking engagements virtually when possible.
  2. Investigating train, bus, and carpooling options for closer destinations.
  3. Flying direct when you can. DYK the most emissions are generated during takeoff?!
  4. Purchase flights through Anthony Travel to help Pitt account for all air travel.
  5. Buying carbon offsets to cover your flights if your budgets allow.

Paper – Paper accounted for 1.1% of Pitt’s GHG emissions in fiscal year 2019, but departmental decisions to use TreeZero’s carbon neutral paper and using reduce printing are making a measurable difference, already!  Pitt’s GHG emissions from paper are already down 60% since FY 2017.

Plant Forward Dining – Pitt is committed to providing many plant forward dining options, which help reduce the carbon footprint of what’s on your plate! Try PittEats new plant forward and/or meat free items available across campus!  Consider participating in Meatless Mondays, where you make plant-centric choices all day, both on- and off-campus! DYK on average, if you eat one meatless day per week for a whole year you can reduce your emissions by 156.5 pounds! We report on plant forward dining progress University-wide as part of our commitment to the Cool Food Pledge! 

 

At Home

Home Energy Efficiency

If you’ve made it this far, we know you’re serious about climate action — and one of the best ways to fight climate change at your apartment or house is energy efficiency!  Increasing your home’s energy efficiency  is extremely cost effective, can make your home more comfortable also, has large GHG reduction potential at scale, and can help reduce the economic, environmental, and social burdens of energy in our communities. Increase your home efficiency by:

  • Checking out some do-it yourself home energy saving projects.
  • DYK the average U.S. household has ~70 lightbulbs?! If you haven’t already switched over to LEDs, it is past time and will save you a ton of money! One ENERGY STAR certified LED light bulb uses up to 90% less electricity than outdated incandescent bulbs and can save you money in electricity over its lifetime, which is 15 to 25 times longer than older bulbs, so you’ll be changing bulbs less frequently (Source: EnergySaver
  • Simply turning your thermostat back 7 to 10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting and save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling (Source: U.S. Department of Energy) 
  • Buying an appliance, fixture, or anything with a plug? Make sure it’s got the Energy Star or WaterSense label!
  • Find out how efficient your home is by investing in a home energy audit to identify potential areas for improvements (Who does home energy audits locally?  Duquesne Light & diagnostic energy auditors in Western Pennsylvania)
  • Weatherize your home to help save energy and money, while making it more comfortable! Weatherization includes sealing air leaks and insulation – and can save you 10 to 20% on your heating and cooling bills. 
  • Examine your home office energy usage by partaking in the Pitt Green Home Office Challenge and watching Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh’s Home Office Energy Efficiency Lunch & Learn.   

Take Charge of Your Energy Sources 

Short Trips  To reduce vehicle miles, consider walking or biking for small trips, walking there and busing home with larger items, and/or bundling errands.

Everyday Tips

DYK that “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is in order of potential impact?  

  • Reduce – 91% of all plastics ends up in landfills or in the environment, primarily because single-use plastics in particular are traditionally hard to recycle because they fall into the crevices of recycling machinery — and therefore are often not accepted by recycling centers. You can help by:

    • Opting out of single-use plastics. 
    • Buying secondhand items to reduce raw materials required per item you use.
    • Reducing the amount of items you purchase.
    • Buying in bulk to reduce how many times you need to purchase something (which can reduce both packaging waste and transport emissions).  For cleaning items, consider buying concentrated versions.
  • Reuse – There are so many ways to choose reusable items first! Check out this list of reusable alternatives for:

  • Recycle – Recycling helps reduce energy use by eliminating the need for virgin materials and saving space in landfills for other items.

    • However, “wish-recycling” can contaminate an entire batch of recyclables, which might get them to be landfilled. You can help by knowing your residential recycling requirements and rinsing items that held food.  
    • Not all items are created equal when it comes to recycling. Some items can be recycled nearly infinitely and maintain their original strength (e.g., steel, aluminum, or glass), while others have a limited number of times they can be recycled (e.g., paper and plastic).
    • You can help by changing your purchasing habits and choosing items that are stored in reusable containers, glass, or metal containers).
    • While single stream recycling may seem easy, don’t forget a lot of specialty materials that can also be recycled like:

Explore Project Drawdown’s table of climate takeback solutions, which has undergone rigorous review and assessment.  You might be surprised by the most globally impactful solution: Reducing Food Waste!  Help out on and off campus by:  

 

Read the Center for Behavior & The Environment’s report on behavioral solutions to reduce global warming, which calls out some of the most impactful climate actions as:

  • Shifting our diets to be more plant-based (i.e., away from meat and dairy) would have a huge impact. If the average U.person in the U.S. reduced their animal protein intake by 45% they would cut their lifetime diet-related emissions in half.
  • Driving battery and plug-in vehicles instead of conventional gas-powered vehicles. Switch from a conventional vehicle to an EV can reduce your emissions 50-95% depending on the source of power. 

VOTE – Every election is an opportunity to create impactful changes locally and nationally to address the climate crisis. Use resources like vote411.org to register, find your polling place, and/or find out what’s on your ballot in advance.  

Buy Your Values –  Every purchase you make matters.  Consider the actions and impacts of companies you’re supporting with your regular purchases. 

Invest Your Values –Learn more about Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing options from Pitt plan administrator TIAA, including which funds you can invest in here at Pitt. Learn more about how carbon can impact your retirement investments.