Faculty, Staff Commitments Contribute to Carbon Reductions

A longstanding campus culture of sustainability has led the University to a new goal: becoming carbon neutral by 2037, the University’s 250th anniversary.

“Addressing climate change is a vital issue for our University, society and future,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who signed the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. The Climate Leadership Network is comprised of colleges and universities nationwide that are acting on climate change. 

“Pledging to go carbon neutral is a critical next step for the University of Pittsburgh—one that seamlessly aligns with our commitment to drive sustainable innovations and equitable opportunities for all,” he said.   

The University’s 2017 greenhouse gas inventory—Pitt’s most recent—shows a successful trajectory toward that ambitious goal, with a reduction of 22% from the 2008 baseline. A commitment to energy-efficient campus buildings, the addition of zero-emissions electric fleet vehicles and the expansion of renewable energy sources—most notably a plan to purchase 100% of the power from a hydroelectric plant to be built on the Allegheny River—are among the large initiatives contributing to the University’s ongoing carbon reduction.

The collective commitment of Pitt faculty and staff at every level propel the goals forward as well. Together they have made the University a perennial winner in the Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge (formerly known as the Green Workplace Challenge.)  

Ways to contribute to the commitment at work

There’s plenty that Pitt employees can do during their normal course of work to further the University’s efforts:

  • Go for green office or lab certification. Complete a self-assessment of your area’s sustainable practices in energy, transportation, purchasing, waste, printing, food and culture in pursuit of one of four levels of Pitt Green certification. 
  • Make your next event Pitt GreenRecycle and compost, opt for electronic materials rather than paper handouts, offer plant-forward food and share the leftovers. The Student Office of Sustainability offers a planning guide
  • Purchase sustainably. Purchasing Services has done the homework on sustainable options for items ranging from cleaning supplies to computers. Did you know that paper accounts for more than 1% of Pitt’s greenhouse gas emissions? Switching to carbon-neutral tree-free paper is one easy choice. TreeZero paper is made from sugarcane waste, making it an environmentally friendly and economic choice. 
  • Streamline lab purchases. Pitt’s chemical redistribution program and Dietrich School Scientific Stockroom can help reduce waste.
  • Shop surplus. Surplus Property at 7500 Thomas Boulevard offers an array of items including office furniture, computers, art work and even vehicles, available for personal or departmental purchase. Sending your department's unneeded equipment, furniture or supplies to Surplus Property gives them an opportunity for an extended useful life.

Carrying the commitment home

Need some creative ideas for cutting your personal carbon footprint beyond the office? Consider these everyday choices, suggests Samantha Ford of Pitt’s Office of Sustainability

  • Don’t participate in fast fashion. Commit not to shop for new clothing—or to shop only at thrift stores—for a set period of time. 
  • Wash your clothes in cold water.
  • Line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.
  • Make more plant-forward dining decisions. Try cutting animal products from your diet one day each week.
  • Buy local. Farmers markets on campus and nearby offer fresh, local food. 
  • Take public transit, walk, bike or carpool when possible—especially for short trips. 
  • Make sure your car tires are inflated to the right PSI.
  • When flying, try to fly direct or choose the itinerary with the fewest layovers.

For more on Pitt’s sustainability efforts and what individuals can do, check out Pitt Sustainability