Answers to these most frequently asked questions should help guide your search for more information on Penn’s environmental sustainability efforts.
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All of our campus "all you care to eat" dining halls collect kitchen waste for composting, including Hill, King’s Court, 1920 Commons, Lauder, and Houston Market.
Penn is converting many large-scale events to be low-waste events in order to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. At low-waste events, such as the Convocation Dessert Reception and the Athletic Picnic during New Student Orientation, as much waste as possible is diverted from the landfill by being composted or recycled. If you are interested in hosting a green event, check out our Green Events Guide.
A composting collection is located in the trash corral behind Mayer Residence Hall at 39th and Spruce Streets (see map below). The program is available to anyone in the Penn community interested in composting their food waste. The specific items accepted at this location can be found in the graphic linked here and below.
For more information, please contact email@example.com (link sends e-mail).
To find out where you can drop off items like eyeglasses, shoes, and writing utensils on campus, see the Special Recycling and Reuse Collections page. For any other items, check out earth911 (link is external).
For even more waste minimization resources, check out the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN). Penn is a member school, and anyone with a upenn.edu email account can get access to PLAN's Member Hub with tons of resources for reduction, reuse, and recycling, including manuals, discounts from partner organizations, and much more! Register on PLAN's website (link is external) using your Penn email address.
Penn recycles rigid plastic containers (numbered or unnumbered) and flexible plastic packaging, including food pouches, shopping bags, bubble wrap, air pillows, and case wrap. For a full list of flexible plastic packaging accepted in Penn's single stream recycling, please see the image below and PDF linked here.
To download a copy of Penn’s updated single-stream recycling and trash signage, visit the Facilities and Real Estate Services website (link is external).
Please note that these accepted materials only apply to Penn-owned buildings which are serviced by FRES Housekeeping. If you are outside of a Penn-owned building, please follow the specific recycling practices outlined for those spaces.
Please also note that Penn does not recycle Polystyrene (Styrofoam) materials.
A Goodwill donation box is located on campus year-round at Rodin College House. Each May during PennMOVES (link is external), an organized collection takes place across campus under the direction of Business Services.
Clothing and accessories that are in good condition and are in style can be taken to Penn Closet, a student-run thrift store located in Williams Hall, or donated to other local consignment shops.
Since September 2010, Penn has used a single-stream recycling system. This means that all recyclable materials (mixed paper, cardboard, glass, metals, and all plastics) can be placed together in the same container.
Some areas on campus may still have separate bins for “mixed paper” and “plastic/glass/aluminum,” but all recyclables can go in those bins.
Note: Styrofoam cannot be recycled and should be placed in trash bins.
Most Schools are participating in electronic waste recycling. See more information on the Special Recycling and Reuse Collections page. If your School is not currently participating, you can contact Elemental (link is external) or E-Force (link is external) directly to collect and dispose of these items.
This off-campus recycling guide, created by the Undergraduate Assembly, explains what can be recycled, how to obtain a bin, and what day recycling is picked up.
The Philadelphia Streets recycling page (link is external) has more information about the city's recycling system.
Students — Most College Houses have a light bulb recycling bin in the lobby near the information desk. See more information on the Special Recycling and Reuse Collections page.
Students — Most College Houses have a battery recycling bin in the lobby near the information desk. See more information on the Special Recycling and Reuse Collections page.
Staff & Faculty — Most Schools have battery recycling. See more information on the Special Recycling and Reuse Collections page.
Lab Staff — EHRS will collect used batteries for recycling only from University research laboratories. To request a pickup, fill out an online request (link is external).
The expected commercial operation date is the end of 2022, so we expect to see power in 2023.
- Johns Hopkins - 175 MW
- Stanford - 67 MW
- MIT - 44 MW
- Georgetown - 32.5 MW
- Harvard - 12 MW
In terms of the Pennsylvania region, many of our peers have signed PPAs as well, but again, Penn’s is by far the largest.
- Penn State - 70 MW
- Partnership between Lehigh, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, and Dickinson - 45.9 MW
- University of Pittsburgh - 17 MW
Penn will be exploring opportunities for this project to be utilized by the student body for research purposes once the facilities are constructed and does not yet have any specific plans.
PENN’s primary commitment was to create additionality of alternative energy production. Over the 25-year contract, the rates are competitive with projected conventional electricity prices.
This project will be a 220 Megawatt (MW) solar power project that will cover about 1,600 acres in Central Pennsylvania. This system is expected to generate approximately 450,000 Megawatt-hours of electricity per year. This is enough energy to power approximately 43,000 homes.
Penn is procuring power from Community Energy and will not be involved in operation or maintenance of the facility. Any job training is outside of our purview.
Community Energy anticipates that this project will require 150 full-time equivalent positions during construction and ten (10) full-time equivalent positions during operations.
The project is expected to have a 35-40 year life. The project will be decommissioned at the end of its life. The steel posts that support the racking structure that hold the panels are pounded into the ground with no concrete footers so they can be fully removed at the end of the project’s life. Steel and aluminum parts are expected to be recycled. Solar panels are more than 80% glass and aluminum, so recycling of the panels is expected as well. The solar panel recycling industry is in its early stages of development as the vast majority of panels manufactured are still in operation. There are facilities in the US and abroad, and we expect solar panel recycling to grow as more and more panels are decommissioned.
A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial agreement between a solar project developer and customer. The developer agrees to design and build the system while the customer agrees to purchase the power generated by the system. In this case, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) has agreed to purchase solar electricity from Community Energy, the developer.
We do not have plans for another PPA at present. We are currently focusing on reduction of energy consumption on campus, which will reduce what we need to buy from the grid. Additionally, Penn has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2042. We are currently assessing a variety of avenues to achieve that goal.
The project will put Penn on a solid path to its goal of carbon neutrality. The project will offset 166,000 MTCE per year. These benefits were seen as optimal for Penn’s desire to address carbon emissions in mitigating the effects of climate change. Other potential impacts were considered but not included in the analysis.
There is always going to be market risk of market prices falling below our locked in price. In response to these concerns, we analyzed various scenarios that used current forward market pricing to evaluate the market risk over 25 years. The results showed a low level of risk for market prices to drop below our contracted price over the life of the PPA, well within the accepted levels for the University.
Environmental studies are underway. Wildlife, critical habitat, wetlands, and cultural resources assessments are in process.
Penn has assessed the available roof space on campus and determined that there is not enough space on campus to develop a sizable solar capacity.
Most of the larger buildings at Penn are heated and cooled through the use of an air handler. The basic function of an air handler is take in outside fresh air, condition it (heat or cool) and supply the fresh air to the building while exhaust air is discharged. Depending on the required temperature of the conditioned air, the fresh air is either heated by a heating coil, or cooled by a cooling coil. During the cooling season. there is the additional need to reduce the humidity in the fresh outside air. This is accomplished by cooling the air down to 55F which causes the moisture in the air to condense on the cooling coils, so it can be removed. The cooled air is too cold to discharge directly, so it then passes through a heating coil called a reheat. The reheat warms the air back up to a temperature that is comfortable for the building occupants. To conserve energy, the systems are set to a supply air temperature of 68-72F. This minimizes the amount of reheat energy needed. Increasing thermostat settings calls for the air handler to increase the amount of reheat, which uses more energy. Hence, a cooler set point for a building with an air handler actually conserves energy.
Penn is committed to keeping its campus safe, and lighting is one of the best deterrents for crime. Thus, in addition to internal lighting required by fire safety code in Penn building corridors, staircases, and office spaces, many lights at building perimeters remain lit throughout the night to help illuminate walkways and sidewalks to ensure the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and other members of the Penn community. To conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Penn has upgraded the lamps in all outdoor pedestrian lights (the familiar “acorn” lampposts) to LED, reducing electricity consumption as well as the need for frequent bulb replacement. General campus flood lighting, such as that used at Shoemaker Green, College Green, and the 38th Street Bridge, use high efficiency LED or conventional lamps.
Penn’s compact urban campus is well served by a variety of alternative transportation modes suitable for reducing the amount of single automobile commutes to and from the University. Learn more about Penn Rides, the Walking Escort Service, LUCY, SEPTA, New Jersey Transit, regional rail, and bicycling programs on our Reducing Emissions webpage and the Penn Transit (link is external) website.
Penn is pleased to purchase the greenest products available. Many of the electronics in offices around campus are ENERGY STAR certified and all offices are stocked with 30% post-consumer content paper. Visit the Green Purchasing (link is external) website for more information.
Penn students, faculty, and staff interested in implementing sustainability projects on campus can apply to the Eco-Reps program.
A complete list of student sustainability groups can be found on our Student Groups page.
Incoming freshmen can register for the PennGreen (link is external) pre-orientation program to learn more about campus and city sustainability efforts.
Students living in a College House or an off-campus residence may apply for Green Living Certification.
Campus offices and departments may apply for Green Office Certification.
Students, faculty, or staff can apply for funding for environmentally sustainable projects through the Green Fund program.
Enjoy local produce and meals in Penn dining halls and cafes managed by Bon Appétit (link is external). You can also purchase a variety of organic food items with your Dining Dollars at Gourmet Grocer in 1920 Commons.
Various farmers’ markets throughout the city provide fresh, local produce and baked goods - you can view a listing of markets here (link is external). On-campus, the University Square Farmers’ Market is held on Wednesdays in front of the Penn Bookstore at 36thand Market Streets. For questions related to the University Square Farmers Market, please contact Jon Glyn (link sends e-mail).
Beginning in 2018, Harnwell has been home to Eco-House (link is external), Penn's first upperclassmen STEM residential program. Residents of the Eco-House work together to reduce their environmental impact and to engage the campus and broader community on sustainability issues through personal choices, projects, and events. Students interested in living in the Eco House must complete a short application, including a personal statement outlining their interest in this unique living environment. The Eco-House would be well suited for students who are considering to major in environmental science, environmental studies, biology, geology, or other natural science-related fields; however, no experience with sustainability is required; residents must merely have an interest in learning more about sustainability and sustainable living habits.
Subscribe to the Penn Sustainability Office e-newsletter, Red & Blue on College Green.
Like Penn Sustainability on Facebook (link is external).
Follow Penn Sustainability on Twitter @GreenPenn (link is external).
Follow Penn Sustainability on Instagram @pennsustainability (link is external)
Check out our News page.
Penn’s Green Fund is designed to seed sustainability projects created by students, faculty and staff.
Those involved in academia are encouraged to apply for a Ben Franklin Scholars Course Design Grant. They are awarded to faculty for exceptional proposals for the development of new BFS seminars, including those that develop innovative approaches to sustainability. Contact BFS Associate Director Linda Wiedmann, firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail).
Those living in Penn’s College Houses are invited to apply for Green Living Certification. Earn points by minimizing waste, using less energy and water, and having other environmentally friendly habits. Get enough points and you will become Bronze, Silver, or Gold Certified and win prizes!
Eco-Reps is an environmental leadership program that focuses on raising awareness of environmental issues and impacting the behavior of individuals across the Penn campus. Following an application process, Student or Staff/Faculty Eco-Reps work together with campus stakeholders and within their departments to develop educational events, activities, and campaigns aimed at supporting the University’s environmental goals and Climate Action Plan.
To apply to the program, visit the Penn Eco-Reps page.
New buildings on Penn’s campus target LEED Silver Certification. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Visit our Designing Green page, or the Built Environment (link is external) page on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website.
Members of the Penn community are encouraged to document the bird strikes that they encounter across campus. The information will help the university understand where bird strikes are taking place and begin to take steps to address the issues.
If you find a bird, please take as many photos of it as you can, which will help with identification. Please include photos showing where the bird was found in relation to the building or windows it may have hit.
Create an account on iNaturalist.org and join the Penn Bird Strikes Project (link is external) to submit your observation.