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Pitt Kicks Off Sustainability Week, Shares Plan to Greatly Reduce Energy, Water Use

University of Pittsburgh News Release

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh will celebrate Pitt Sustainability Week, April 14-20, and reaffirm goals to significantly reduce energy and water usage that build upon existing eco-friendly efforts of students, faculty and staff.

Sustainability Week, organized by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, highlights projects that align with the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan, released in January, which establishes goals aiming to improve the University’s environmental impact.

The Pitt Sustainability Plan unifies the University’s many existing initiatives and sets ambitious, measurable goals for the future. The work will be coordinated by a new Office of Sustainability.

“This plan reflects the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment, as a top global academic institution, to support long-term sustainability that extends beyond environmental practices,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “We are enacting lasting changes that will help future generations thrive in a world that is environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically robust.”

Bold Goals

Pitt’s sustainability efforts date back to the 1975 launch of its first campus-wide energy management system. The Sustainability Plan significantly expands existing efforts across the University, which faces challenges as an urban, dense campus with limited green space and extensive paved areas. The plan’s major goals to achieve by 2030 include:

  • Reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50 percent.
  • Produce or procure at least 50 percent of the University’s energy from renewable resources.
  • Achieve an energy use intensity that is at least 50 percent below the national average.
  • Achieve water use intensity that is 50 percent below the Pittsburgh 2030 District average.
  • Reduce the level of GHG emissions from University commuting and campus transportation emissions by 50 percent.

To reduce its impact on the city’s water and storm water systems, Pitt plans to divert 25 percent of storm water to rain gardens, bioswales or rainwater harvesting tanks. A greener campus will be created by replacing 15 percent of campus lawn area with indigenous and adapted plants and increasing the tree canopy by 50 percent. And a coalition is working toward the goal to compost 50 percent of the University’s food waste by 2025, including establishing compost drop-off stations on campus. 

The expansion of existing initiatives includes annual increases in the number of students graduating with the Undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability, along with the number of sustainability-related patents, licenses and start-ups. Pitt also is pursuing U.S. Green Building certification for nine current or recent projects. In 2005, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was the first of 12 projects to earn certification.

Campus Community Input

The Sustainability Plan was developed with input from across the campus community under the guidance of a University-wide committee representing faculty, staff and students.

“Sustainability has been an established part of the culture at Pitt for many years,” said committee co-chair Richard Heller, senior manager of electrical utilities and energy initiatives in Pitt’s Facilities Management Division who also bicycles to the Oakland campus. “Our goal was not only to advance sustainable practices, but also to align the efforts of the many sustainability groups and stakeholders across campus. We were challenged to be bold in setting these goals. This plan will guide and focus our energies to meet the challenge.” 

April 14-20 Activities

Pitt Sustainability Week 2018 events will feature community service, workshops on composting, spring move-out donations, the return of the monthly Farmers Market at Pitt and more. For a full list of events, visit the Sustainability Week website.

The week concludes April 20 with student presentations about solutions to real-world sustainability challenges from 9 to 11 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., the 11th annual Student Sustainability Symposium will feature projects by students in Department of Geology and Environmental Science faculty member Ward Allebach’s Sustainability course.

Many projects from past semesters — including pollinator gardens, a campus thrift store, the Oakland Avenue vegetable garden and the BYO [Bag] reusable shopping bag program that has diverted more than 1 million plastic bags — have been implemented on campus.

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Author: Kimberly K. Barlow, University Communications