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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to these most frequently asked questions should help guide your search for more information on Penn’s environmental sustainability efforts.

Have a question not addressed here? Email the Penn Sustainability Office at sustainability@upenn.edu.

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Minimizing Waste

How does Penn manage waste on campus?

What is “single stream” recycling?

How can I get recycling signage in my building?

Where can I get recycling bins?

Does Penn recycle plastic?

I live off campus. How do I recycle?

Where can I recycle light bulbs?

Can I recycle pipette tip boxes?

How can I recycle batteries?

How can I recycle my electronic and universal waste?

How can I recycle my old office/home furniture?

Where can I donate clothes and other small items?

Does the University compost food waste?

Conserving Energy

How do I report waste heat (a building that is too hot) or waste cooling (a building that is too cold)?

How does Penn conserve energy?

Does Penn purchase any Green or Renewable Energy?

Why does Penn keep its lights on late at night?

Sustainable Transportation

How can I get to and from Penn’s campus without a car?

What is Penn’s policy about bicycles on campus?

Is there a map of bicycle lanes around campus?

Where are bike racks located on campus?

Purchasing Practices

What green purchasing practices exist at Penn?

Learning Sustainability

Where can I find information about classes related to sustainability?

What are Penn Schools and Centers doing to improve sustainability?

Designing Green

How does Penn incorporate sustainability into campus buildings?

Is there a map/walking tour of green buildings on campus?

Local Foods

Where can I buy organic or local foods on or around campus?

Getting Involved

What environmental programs and volunteer opportunities are available on campus?

What is the Penn Eco-Reps program and how can I apply?

I live in a College House. How can I live a “green” lifestyle?

I work in an office at Penn. Are there guidelines to “green” my office space?

I work in a Lab on campus. Are there guidelines to “green” my lab space?

How can I “green” my office or department’s IT operations?

I am a freshman or new student coming to Penn. What do I need to know before coming to Penn?

How can I green my event? How do I host a zero waste waste?

I have an idea for an environmental sustainability project. Where can I find funding?

How can I continue to learn more about Penn’s efforts on environmental sustainability?

Minimizing Waste

How does Penn manage waste on campus?

Penn is dedicated to improving our waste stream through a host of efforts. Visit the Minimizing Waste page on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website.

What is “single stream” recycling?

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 and plastic bags/wrap cannot be recycled, and should be placed in trash bins.

How can I get recycling/compost/landfill signage in my building?

Download colorful signage for recycling, compost, and landfill (in PDF format) from the Waste Management page on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website.

Where can I get recycling bins?

Students — Email sustainability@upenn.edu to find out about any bin giveaways. Bins may also be purchased through Penn Student Agencies.

Staff & Faculty — Contact your Building Administrator or your Sustainability Coordinator to request recycling bins.

I live off campus. How do I recycle?

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 has more information about the city's recycling system.

Does Penn recycle plastic?

Penn recycles plastic containers (numbered or unnumbered), and utensils. Penn does not recycle Polystyrene (Styrofoam), packing materials such as bubble wrap and packing peanuts, or plastic wrap and bags.

The Fresh Grocer located at 40th and Walnut Streets has a collection bin for plastic bags. Visit Green Philly for more information on where you can recycle plastic bags in the city.

Where can I recycle light bulbs?

Students — Ask your Residential Advisor (RA) or Graduate Associate (GA); most College Houses have light bulb recycling bins in the lobby at the information desk.

Staff & Faculty — Contact your Building Administrator or Sustainability Coordinator. Or, contact Environmental Health & Radiation Safety (EHRS) about recycling fluorescents and other types of light bulbs.

Can I recycle pipette tip boxes?

If the pipette tip boxes have a recycling mark with number 1 through 7, they can go into the regular recycling bin. Learn more about Lab Glassware Disposal.

More information about lab supplies can be found in the Green Lab Certification guidelines.

How can I recycle batteries?

Students — Most College Houses have a battery recycling bin in the lobby near the information desk. 

Lab Staff — EHRS will collect used batteries for recycling only from University research laboratories. To request a pickup, fill out an online request.

Staff & Faculty — Contact your Sustainability Coordinator. Many offices and departments use the Big Green Box program or Call2Recycle program.

How can I recycle my electronic and universal waste?

A special vendor must be used to dispose of unwanted computers (including monitors, printers, and hard drives), electronics, and appliances. Many offices and departments use Elemental or E-Force to collect and dispose of these items. Contact your Sustainability Coordinator to find out if your School or Center is participating in electronics recycling.

How can I recycle my old office/home furniture?

Ben’s Attic is a website developed by Purchasing Services that allows Penn staff and faculty to exchange and purchase surplus University-owned property. Purchases may be made through your department’s purchasing manager. Ben’s Attic is for departmental use only; no personal purchases are allowed.

At the end of the year in May, PennMOVES collects items that Penn students can’t take with them when they leave campus– clothes, furniture, appliances, books, housewares, toys, sporting goods and nonperishable food, etc. Contact your Building Administrator or Area Manager for additional guidance.

Where can I donate clothes and other small items?

A Goodwill donation box is located on campus year-round at Rodin College House. Each May during PennMOVES, 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 local consignment shops and donated. 

Does the University compost food waste?

All campus dining halls collect kitchen waste for composting. Hill College House, King’s Court College House,  Class of 1920, and Houston Hall provide compost bins for diners to dispose of food waste. Joe’s Café in Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall and the Hillel dining hall also compost food waste.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center building has a worm bin for waste and leftovers from staff meals. Mayer Hall has a composting bin for residents’ food waste. The Law School composts leftover food from events and receptions. Koo Plaza (2nd Floor) of Huntsman Hall has a compost bin for food waste. An increasing number of schools and centers are holding green events that include a compost option.

In the spring of 2018, a composting pilot in the Harrison Community Garden (located on the pathway between Harrison College House and the LGBT Center) launched. The program is available to any Penn members interested in composting their food waste. Please visit the Bennett Compost website for a list of accepted items. For more information, please contact Eco-Reps Sam Friskey or Hannah Sanders.

Conserving Energy

How do I report waste heat (a building that is too hot) or waste cooling (a building that is too cold)?

Initiate a Service Request on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website. You can also contact your Building Administrator to investigate the issue.

How does Penn conserve energy?

Learn more about Penn’s energy conservation practices on our Conserving Energy page or the Energy Management page on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website.

Does Penn purchase any Green or Renewable Energy?

Penn continues to be one of the largest purchasers of Green Power among institutions of higher education, and regularly recognized by the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program. In 2013, the University signed a five-year contract to purchase over 200M kWh of wind Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) annually. According to the EPA’s accounting of voluntary REC purchases, over 50% of Penn's total electrical consumption is carbon-free.

Why does Penn keep its lights on late at night?

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. 

Sustainable Transportation

How can I get to and from Penn’s campus without a car?

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 website.

What is Penn's policy about bicycles on campus?

Penn has updated its Bike Policy. View this article for more information.

Is there a map of bicycle lanes around campus?

View a map of bike lanes and more on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website.

Where are bike racks located on campus?

          The campus map on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website shows bike racks and more!

Purchasing Practices

What green purchasing practices exist at Penn?

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 website.

Learning Sustainability

Where can I find more information about classes related to sustainability?

Several academic programs and courses are listed on our Learning Sustainability page. The Penn Sustainability Office hopes this document will help students to identify sustainability-focused classes that fit into their particular curriculum or in order to increase their overall sustainability knowledge and literacy.

Undergraduate and graduate programs are also available through the Department of Earth and Environmental Science.

What are Penn Schools and Centers doing to improve sustainability?

The following schools have websites describing their own “green” initiatives:

Wharton School of Business

The School of Arts & Sciences

The School of Engineering & Applied Science

Designing Green

How does Penn incorporate sustainability into campus buildings?

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 webpage, or the Built Environment page on the Facilities & Real Estate Services website.

Is there a map/walking tour of green buildings on campus?

Using the Penn Plant Explorer you can locate and learn about plants and other green features on campus. On your own, visit a number of green spaces at Penn.

Local Foods

Where can I buy organic or local foods on or around campus?

Enjoy local produce and meals in Penn dining halls and cafes managed by Bon Appétit. 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--view a listing of markets. On campus, the University Square Farmers’ Market is held on Wednesdays in front of the Penn Bookstore at 36th and Market Streets. For questions related to the University Square Farmers Market, please contact Jon Glyn.

Getting Involved

What environmental programs and volunteer opportunities are available on campus?

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 freshman can register for the PennGreen 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.

Penn holds campus-wide competitions and campaigns such as the Power Down Challenge and ReThink Your Footprint  that encourage participation from the entire University community.

What is the Penn Eco-Reps program and how can I apply?

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 webpage.

I live in a College House. How can I live a “green” lifestyle?

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!

I work in an office at Penn. Are there guidelines to “green” my office space?

The Penn Sustainability Office recognizes the efforts of staff and faculty to green their daily activities by offering four levels of Green Office Certification.

I work in a Lab on campus. Are there guidelines to “green” my lab space?

The Penn Sustainability Office created the Green Labs @ Penn Guide to provide overall guidelines for lab greening and recognizes that some labs will be able to complete more actions than others.

How can I “green” my office or department’s IT operations?

Penn Computing’s Green I.T. website highlights best practices to make computing at your office more sustainable.

I am a freshman or new student coming to Penn. What do I need to know before coming to Penn?

Check out our New Student Guide to find out everything you need to know before coming to Penn. Also refer to the Move-In living sustainably as well as How to Green Your Move-In.

How can I green my event? How do I host a green event?

Learn about sustainable catering companies and how to set up a green event by downloading the Green Events Guide.

I have an idea for an environmental sustainability project. Where can I find funding?

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, wiedmann@upenn.edu.

How can I continue to learn more about Penn’s efforts on environmental sustainability?

Subscribe to the Penn Sustainability Office e-newsletter, Red & Blue on College Green.

Like the Penn Sustainability Office on Facebook.

Follow the Penn Sustainability Office on Twitter (@GreenPenn).

Check out our News pages.

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