Pitt’s Sustainable Development Goals Activities

What is the University of Pittsburgh doing related to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Quite a bit, as we’ve begun to highlight herein.

In 2015, all United Nations member states adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.”

What is the University of Pittsburgh doing related to the SDGs?  Quite a bit, as we’ve begun to highlight below.  In September 2019, Provost Ann Cudd joined other Pittsburgh leaders during the 74th United Nations General Assembly to discuss city-wide progress on the SDGs.  Know of other ways we’re contributing university-wide? Let us know!

GOAL 1: No Poverty

  • The University has a goal to become a campus and community that is both aware of collegiate basic needs and striving to ensure that all of our students are secure in every way possible.  As such, Pitt is a strong partner with Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE) for the regional Collegiate Basic Needs Dialogue to discuss basic needs on campus. Students, staff, and members of the community work in areas concerned with collegiate food and housing security, mental and emotional health, safety, accessibility, and financial wellness and security — in hopes to provide college campuses with resources that ensure their students have their basic needs met.  A previous study on housing insecurity led to establishing food pantries on a number of campuses and implementing other support resources that could address challenges facing students including housing, transportation, counseling or employment.
  • Dr. Jamie L. Hanson is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychology and Learning Research Development Center who studies the effects of poverty on the brain
  • In Summer 2015, the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics’ Health and Human Services Committee assembled a special advisory committee led by Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus Chair, Dan Frankel, and Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Dave Reed, to examine the issue of suburban poverty in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  The Committee then authored 2016 policy brief on “Poverty: Beyond the Urban Core” to educate regional leaders on the changing demographics and landscape of poverty in Southwestern Pennsylvania by examining the unique obstacles that municipalities, human service providers, and nonprofits face while addressing poverty-related issues in the suburbs. The policy brief addresses the issues of housing, transportation, income inequality, and education, and provides recommendations to public, private, and nonprofit entities in their efforts to improve community outreach and help those living in poverty move towards self-sufficiency.

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

  • A study for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank by the University of Pittsburgh’s Office for Child Development revealed that nearly one third of college students in southwestern Pennsylvania struggle with food insecurity – this rate is more than twice the rate of food insecurity among adults throughout the United States.
  • The Pitt Pantry is dedicated to ensuring that all students have regular access to a balanced and nutritious diet by hosting regular shopping hours where all members of the Pitt community can visit to obtain food and services. It operates on charitable donations received from individuals and organizations within the Pitt and Pittsburgh community.
  • An on-campus student group called “Food Recovery Heroes” have worked since 2014 to divert more than 35,000 pounds of surplus food from campus to those in need, including the Pitt Pantry.

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

  • The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is among the country’s best public health programs. A top-ranked, world renowned institution, Pitt Public Health was the 13th accredited school of public health in the country and is recognized for our contributions to public health practices and medical care on the local, national, and international level. We have a rich history of conducting groundbreaking research, from the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s to timely studies of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, to today’s virtual modeling of the spread of infectious disease.
  • Pitt’s Center for Global Health’s mission is to address health issues affecting global populations.  The Center for Health Equity aims to understand and reduce health disparities in underserved populations, particularly those in Western Pennsylvania. The center engages the community in efforts to reduce the major causes of excess mortality among disadvantaged populations in the region, such as infant mortality; community violence; and cardiovascular health.
  • The University offers an undergraduate certificate in Global Studies, Health & Wellbeing, graduate degrees in Public Health, and a graduate certificate in Global Health from the School of Public Health
  • Pitt is operationally committed to creating a resource net for incoming students that will allow us to proactively meet our students’ physical, social, financial, and mental health needs.
  • Active Minds at the University of Pittsburgh is a peer-based mental health advocacy organization with the mission to reduce mental health stigma on college campuses. Active Minds develops workshops based on student feedback , and aims to help students feel comfortable to reaching out for professional help, while advocating for themselves and others.
  • Pitt’s on-campus dining and retail food procurement is committed to 25% Real Food campus-wide by 2025, which comes from local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane sources.

GOAL 4: Quality Education

  • Beginning in Fall 2018, all valedictorians and salutatorians from all Pittsburgh Public Schools are guaranteed freshman admission to the University of Pittsburgh, along with scholarship support of at least $2,000 per year.
  • Consistently ranked among the Top 35 graduate schools of education by U.S. News & World Report, the Pitt School of Education offers world-class education programs that ignite learning for all. Through 90+ degree and certificate programs, they approach learning as intertwined with health, wellness, and human development. Pitt’s School of Education also contributes to this UN SDG in a number of ways:
    • Center for Urban Education’s vision is to be a space of learning and sharing with communities to positively transform educational opportunities and experiences.
    • School of Education has a permanent space in Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood— a multipurpose room dedicated to afterschool programming, literacy workshops, wellness and a classroom space for Pitt Education students.
    • “The Pitt School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh is committed to advancing equity and justice in society through education. Our faculty and staff members are dedicated change agents who are driven to make a difference in our schools, education systems, and power structures.  Through our teaching and research, we are creating a better future for all students. This is what we mean by and enact through our mission to ignite learning for students.
    • Our Mission  / Vision: We ignite learning. We strive for well-being for all. We teach. We commit to student, family, and community success. We commit to educational equity. We advocate. We work for justice. We cultivate relationships. We forge engaged partnerships. We collaborate. We learn with and from communities. We innovate and agitate. We pursue and produce knowledge. We research. We disrupt and transform inequitable educational structures. We approach learning as intertwined with health, wellness, and human development. We address how national, global, social, and technological change impacts learning. We shape practice and policy. We teach with and for dignity. We think. We dream. We lead with integrity. We are the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

  • In September 019, Pitt’s Centers for European Studies, Global Studies, and International Studies hosted the 2nd Annual Global Town Hall Meeting on UN and Global Governance Reform.  The event’s topic was “Climate, Gender, and Sustainable Development: From Local Activism to Global Reform,” and it focused on the need to think synthetically about climate change, gender equity, and sustainable development in reimagining an agenda for global governance reform and reconfiguring citizen activism for social justice.
  • In Fall 2019, an entire 1 credit Global Studies class will focus on SDG 5, considering “Global Health and Gender Equality” by bringing the expertise of faculty from the University of Pittsburgh and CMU as well as practitioners to understand and address the issue surrounding global health from a myriad of perspectives and avenues. With an applied focus, the course will assist students in engaging and advocating for a community on a global health issue through a policy memo.

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

  • The Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach is a platform for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and training dedicated to applying science-based approaches to resolve local, regional, and global water sustainability issues.
  • Operationally, the University initially tested water in all Pittsburgh campus buildings for lead in 2017; all locations are below federal standards, with Housing & buildings with elementary-age children tested annually.  More than 20 residence halls have proactive water quality monitoring and control systems that control legionella & other water contaminants.
  • Pitt’s Center for Social & Urban Research has developed Leaducated, a crowdsourced tool to help Pittsburgh-area residents identify whether a residential service line is made of lead.
  • The University is committed to working with the City to ensure clean, healthy drinking water for all in our community.
  • Since 2014, the University has been committed to the international 2030 Challenge goal of 50% reductions in building water use (below national baselines) by the year 2030.
  • Pitt’s campus-wide goal is to divert 25% of stormwater from impervious surfaces by 2030, leveraging existing and new rain gardens, bioswales, and/or rainwater harvesting.

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

  • Since 2014, the University has been committed to the international 2030 Challenge goals of carbon neutral new construction by 2030 and 50% reductions in building energy use (below national baselines) by the year 2030.
  • Along with ongoing building conservation and efficiency, Pitt has 14% renewables in our mix, moving up to our goal of 50% of its electricity powered by on- and off-campus renewables by 2030.
  • Along with 2 on-site solar installations (1 in Oakland, 1 in Bradford), the University recently committed to purchasing all of the electricity to be generated by the first low-impact hydropower facility to be built on Pittsburgh’s 3 rivers in over 3 decades; the facility will be built at an existing lock on the Allegheny River and will provide ~25% of the University’s annual electricity usage.
  • Pitt’s GRID Institute is a comprehensive international solution center for the electric power industry, working towards solutions needed for a modern sustainable and reliable grid demand research that have been developed and tested against the needs of both industry and society.
  • The University offers Energy & Environment graduate degrees in both International Development and Public Administration.

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • The University of Pittsburgh provides strategic leadership and representation for labor relations and collective bargaining functions. The Department of Employee and Labor Relations works closely with managers, supervisors, and unions to facilitate communication and cooperation across the University with the 8 different collective bargaining units on campus, including service, trades, operating engineers, and police.
  • The University of Pittsburgh is committed to fostering a diverse supplier base. The Supplier Diversity Program or Diversity Business Enterprise (DBE) Program, is designed to ensure that businesses of diverse backgrounds and ownership have the opportunity to become valued suppliers as a means of improving the general economic well-being of the community and functioning of our local and national economies.
  • The University is working to increase the number of sustainability-related patents, licenses, and start-ups (both for profit and nonprofit).

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

  • The University is committed to working across topics and disciplines to define innovations and ensure that there is a mechanism for students, faculty, and staff to advance ideas for positive impact.
  • The Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) at the University of Pittsburgh aims to promote the adoption of more sustainable business practices.  The CSB accomplishes this by leveraging the unique expertise and capabilities of an active research and teaching community together with the applied knowledge and industry experience of leading global companies. Through innovative research, specialized education and training, and critical thought leadership, the CSB helps companies learn how to leverage their investments in sustainability across all functions of the organization to generate better business and societal outcomes.
  • Launched in October 2019, the CSB’s Sustainable Business Roundtable is a peer-to-peer business learning network that combines cutting-edge academic insight with open discussion of best practices, challenges, and opportunities that companies face in striving to embed the principle of sustainability throughout their organizations.
  • The University offers an undergraduate certificate in Business, Leadership & Ethics and a graduate business certificate in Sustainability.
  • The University of Pittsburgh has Bicycle Friendly University Bronze status from the League of American Bicyclists, with a goal of achieving Gold by 2025.

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

  • The School of Social Work advances and applies knowledge for the prevention and amelioration of social problems and the promotion of well-being. Through teaching, research and service, the school promotes social, economic and environmental justice.
  • The University’s Sociology department offers an undergraduate degree with a possible concentration in “Social Movements & Inequality
  • The School of Social Work’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) was established to help lead America further along the path to social justice by conducting race-related research, mentoring emerging scholars, and disseminating race-related research findings and scholarship. It’s mission is to conduct applied social science research on race, color, ethnicity and their influence on the quality of life for all Americans.

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

  • With 12 LEED certified buildings already (and another 6 in construction or documentation), the University is committed to pursuing LEED building certifications or better for our built environment.
  • The University is committed to increasing the number of sustainability-related local, national, and international service projects.
  • Pitt’s Neighborhood Commitments build stronger communities and a stronger University based on long-term place-based partnerships. The two established Community Engagement Centers (CEC) to date have been established in partnership with residents and stakeholders in traditionally underserved neighborhoods where the University has made long-term commitments of investment, infrastructure, programming, and staffing in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.
  • Pitt’s operational goal is to achieve 50% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from commuter travel and direct transportation by 2030 (from 2013 baseline).
  • Pitt became a Bike Friendly University for the first time in 2018, and is working to celebrate biking culture with the Pitt Bike Cave repair shop and growing bicycling amenities.
  • The University offers an undergraduate certificate in Engineering for Humanity and a graduate degree in Sustainable Engineering.

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

  • In 2018, a University of Pittsburgh team from Chemical & Petroleum Engineering were winners in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s international Circular Materials Challenge, entering a 12-month accelerator program in collaboration to make their innovations marketable at scale.
  • Dr. Eric Beckman, Co-Director of Science & Technology for the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation researches the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation, including how to better bring plastics into the circular economy.
  • Dr. Melissa Bilec, Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation works on improving system-level environmental performance of buildings, while developing a deeper understanding of indoor environmental quality, occupant impacts, and energy use.
  • The University is working to establish procedures, policies, practices, and educational tools to reduce the quantity and environmental impact of materials entering and exiting the University.  We also have number of materials management goals, including to reduce landfill waste 25% by 2030 while composting 50% of organic waste by 2025.
  • A number of recent efforts are focused on integrating the tenets of sustainability into the University’s procurement policies and guidelines.
  • The University of Thriftsburgh is a working model of sustainability, encouraging students to think about how to reuse and recycle in a whole new light at this student-run thrift store that reduces textile waste, cuts carbon, and promotes a culture of re-use. Sustainability, social justice, and vintage outfits for all!

GOAL 13: Climate Action

  • The University goal is to strive toward climate neutrality, with a  goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 from 2008 baseline; with 22.2% reductions in GHGs for FY17, we are on track to meet this goal.
  • Pitt is also committed to serving meals that put plants at the center of the plate by decreasing the amount of animal-derived products sold by 25% by 2025 (from 2017 baseline).  We recently became an early university signatory to the Cool Food Pledge, to “provide delicious food that is better for the planet” and commit to a collective target of reducing the GHG emissions associated with the food they provide by 25 percent by 2030 relative to 2015—a level of ambition in line with keeping global warming below 2⁰C. 
  • The University’s Climate and Global Research Center is a multidisciplinary center advancing cross-disciplinary research projects that focus on climate change led by over 30 faculty members.

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

  • The University is committed to supporting a local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane food system by expanding the Real Food Challenge across campus to serve 25% Real Food by 2025.
  • Pitt spin-out The Aquaponics Project is dedicated to building the tools and curriculum necessary to empower communities to redevelop and grow through great food through aquaponics while also addressing food waste, food distribution and soil conditions to truly build a resilient solution.

GOAL 15: Life on Land

  • The University’s land-based goals include to increase tree canopy by 50% and replace 15% of lawn area with indigenous and adapted plants by 2030 (from 2017 baseline); these efforts build on the University’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines.
  • Pitt also recently completed our first ever campus tree inventory, tallying almost 4,000 existing trees on our primary.  The University is also working to reduce impervious surfaces 20% by 2030 (from 2017 baseline), including diverting 25% of stormwater from impervious surfaces to reuse, detention, retention, and/or green stormwater solutions by 2030.
  • Pitt also has an operational goal to maintain at least 75% of landscaped areas in accordance with Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Standards for Organic Land Care by 2024.
  • The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was recently designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Pitt–Johnstown is the first Pennsylvania university to earn this certification, and only the eighth overall.
  • The University’s Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology (PLE) is a superb year-round facility that is part of Pitt’s Department of Biological Sciences. Located in Northwestern Pennsylvania on the shores of beautiful Pymatuning Lake, PLE is dedicated to serving the academic community and visitors from around the world.
  • The University offers an undergraduate certificate in Global Studies, Ecology & Sustainability
  • The University is committed to supporting a local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane food system by expanding the Real Food Challenge across campus to serve 25% Real Food by 2025.

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

GOAL 17: Partnerships to Achieve the Goals

  • In February 2019, the University became a founding member of the U.S. Chapter of the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network.
  • Pitt is also a strong partner in the Pittsburgh Higher Education Climate Consortium (HECC), the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s Sustainability Committee, the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC), among many other regional, national, and international partner organizations.
  • In Fall 2019, Pitt students self-identified the first ever cohort of Millennium Fellows; these 14 students were selected for this UN / MCN program – and are focused in Fall 2019 on UN SDG-centered projects

Know of other ways we’re contributing university-wide? Let us know!