The University of Pittsburgh has been advancing sustainability activities across campus for decades, but in the 2019-20 academic year, we celebrated some new commitments, achievements, and milestones!
Our cross-departmental Pitt Sustainability team continues to be focused on advancing the campus-wide Pitt Sustainability Plan, tracking measurable progress on the Plan’s 61 goals across stewardship, exploration, community, and culture.
As a result, we’re celebrating achievements big and small that occurred from July 2019 through June 2020 (some despite and due to the global Covid-19 pandemic); these include:
- Carbon Neutrality – Committed to carbon neutrality on the Pittsburgh campus by 2037.
- Data Transparency –Launched a new Pitt Sustainability Dashboard, which provides an interactive view of progress on select Pitt Sustainability Plan goals, including greenhouse gas emissions, compostables, food recovery, and Real Food Challenge achievements!
- Building Energy Use – Achieved lowest total energy use per square foot since data tracking began in 2008 (and 22% reduction in campus energy use since 2015, which keeps us on track to meet our Pittsburgh 2030 District goal to reduce energy use per square foot 50% by 2030.
- Water Use – Continued emphasis on water use sustained its downward trend, with total consumption down 10% since FY 2017, continuing to progress toward the Pittsburgh 2030 District goal to reduce water use per square foot 50% by 2030.
- Renewable Energy Portfolio Expansion – 18% of the University’s energy originated from renewable energy sources in FY 2020. A new commitment to a future local, solar development will combine with planned, local, low-impact hydropower use, projecting at least 36.5% of the Pittsburgh campus’ electricity will be supplied by renewables by 2024, keeping the University on track to reach its strategic goal of 50% of electricity produced or procured from renewable sources by 2030.
- Landscape & Ecology –Our first ever Bee Campus USA designation, only the 5th bestowed on a Pennsylvania college or university
- Green Building Certifications – Recognized for sustainable building design and construction with attainment of LEED building certifications at both Clapp Hall and the Livingston Alexander House Residence Hall at Pitt Bradford, totaling 14 owned and operated LEED certified buildings.
- Transportation & Mobility
- Added four electric box trucks to its fleet, simultaneously increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support these vehicles.
- Partnered with Pittsburgh’s bike share system for the first time, offering first year students unlimited 30-minute bike share rides at no cost to them.
- Continued free transit fares for Pitt faculty, staff, and students.
Materials & Resources
- Pitt Green Events – Facilitated 153 events with composting in, including 48 Pitt Green and/or zero waste events during the 2019 Welcome Week alone, for nearly 14,000 students, family members, faculty, and staff. 2019 Welcome Week events collectively diverted over 9 tons of waste from the landfill. For comparison, 10 events were Green Certified and/or zero waste during the 2018 Welcome Week.
- Compost –Diverted 176 tons of compostables from campus in FY 2020, reaching a new 12-month high.
- Clutter for a Cause – Held 3 Clutter for a Cause community collections in Oakland in partnership with Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, reclaiming for reuse approximately 1,500 pounds of furniture, kitchen items, books, textiles and more!
- Textiles – Launched a textile recycling collection program at 20 campus locations to collect and recycle used textiles, diverting 7,866 textiles into the circular economy (equivalent to the amount of textiles 96 Americans throw away annually)
- Green Cleaning Procurement – Publicly bid and signed custodial contract with Grainger that integrates waste and packaging reduction goals in alignment with Pitt’s Sustainability Plan, along with campus-wide green cleaning product verification and procurement.
- Cool Food Pledge Commitment – Alongside the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit, the University was one of the first universities to sign the Cool Food Pledge in a united global promise to cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2030 through sustainable food practices and food waste reduction.
- Pitt Eats … Sustainability – The University changed over its Dining provider to Compass, now offering Pitt Eats, with a renewed focus on all Pitt Sustainability Plan goals, including plant-forward dining, 50% reusable containers for meals and beverages by 2025, 25% Real Food campus-wide by 2025, and reducing food waste overall, while composting 50% of remaining food waste by 2025.
Equity & Access
- Basic Needs – Campus Basic Needs Committee established in order to understand, communicate, and advocate for students’ basic needs and create resources to ensure student success
- Meal Scholarships – Meal Scholarship Program established to create additional avenue for students to receive short term emergency food assistance and connections to medium-term solutions (Student Affairs, OAFA, and Panther Central)
- Zero Waste Period – Pitt Planned Parenthood and the Student Office of Sustainability (SOOS) purchased and distributed 400 reusable menstrual cups and 46 menstrual pads, with additional inserts. In addition to avoiding waste, the project tackles menstrual equity and access to basic needs, including hygiene products on campus and around the world. Ten dispensers providing free, single use period products were installed across campus.
Community & Culture
- Capacity – Grew and cultivated campus-wide Pitt Sustainability team, which now spans 6 departments, 2 academic centers, and 9 governing or advisory bodies.
- Earth Day – Timeline created celebrating 50 years of Earth Day and Pitt’s commitment to the Earth.
- Green Labs – Celebrated our first ever Pitt Green Labs, who are are working to create a thriving culture of sustainability in laboratories around campus!
- Green Residents – Recognized first 2 Pitt Green Floors and over 442 Pitt Green Residents (56% of participants), who actively contributed to creating a culture of sustainability in Pitt on- and off-campus housing through their individual and collection decisions!
- EcoReps – Pitt EcoReps program launched, hiring 2 students to help fellow students live sustainably in residence halls.
- Podcast – Launched “Sustaining Sustainability” podcast series, which explores sustainability lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic via 15-minute, weekly interviews with industry managers, academic experts, government officials, and civil society leaders.
- PMADD – Pitt Make a Difference Day motivated 3,175 volunteers to do service on 90 projects (60 in the City of Pittsburgh).
- Responsible Investing
- Adopted Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Policy that will guide investment decisions for endowment; first report expected by end of 2021.
- The University’s Board of Trustees activated the Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) screening process it adopted in February 2020 to create an Ad-Hoc Committee that will study whether the university should divest its endowment from fossil fuels.
- First 2 Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows named, focusing on sustainability research, education and outreach.
- Sustainable Business – Launched Center for Sustainable Business to maximize the value of investments in sustainable business strategies by juxtaposing active research and teaching with applied knowledge and industry experience.
- Circular Economy Research – A 2-year, $1.3 million award National Science Foundation Growing Convergence Research grant was awarded to a 5-university team led by Dr. Melissa Bilec (MCSI, CEE)) to focus on the complex challenge of global waste through circular economy design (with the potential for an extension to 5 years and $3.6 million). One of the first two University of Pittsburgh Momentum Scaling Grants to was awarded to Attacking the Global Plastics Waste Problem, a Pitt collaborative working in attacking the global plastic waste problem across MCSI, SSOE, Chemistry, & Law
- Award – Dr. David Sanchez (MCSI, CEE) was awarded a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award recognizing his outstanding use of active project-based learning techniques and engagement-driven teaching style in the two pillar courses that bookend the University-wide Undergraduate Sustainability Certificate.
- Undergraduate Research – First ever virtual delivery of Undergraduate Summer Sustainability Research program.
- K-12 Teacher Training – First ever online Teach-the-Teacher programs for regional middle school teachers (Sustainable Engineering in a Virtual Classroom: Teaching Engineering and Sustainability Practices)
Keep an eye out for these newly announced 2020-21 offerings also!
- Healthy Ride @ Pitt – Unlimited 30-minute Healthy Ride bike share rides extended to all Pitt students, faculty, and staff for academic year 2020-21.
- Real College Survey – To gain a better understanding of student basic needs insecurities, the University will be deploying the Real College Survey deployed in Fall 2020.
- Swipe Out Hunger – Campus-wide meal swipe donation drive to combat student hunger.