After Year of Sustainability, Pitt stays focused on being green


By Chidi Nwakpuda / For The Pitt News

Pitt faculty and campus organizations are calling on its students to go green this year — right down to their tools.

Coming off its first-ever Year of Sustainability, a year-long initiative meant to fund and promote sustainability efforts on campus, Pitt’s green focus will continue. This fall, the University store is providing school supplies made from recycled materials, and Pitt faculty and organizations are offering ways for Pitt students to be more sustainable while at school.

Alex Jones, researcher in renewable energy at Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, attributes the growing activity and awareness to the substantial top-down feedback from the chancellor and administrative officers. He said their approving of the major sustainability initiatives, like the Year of Sustainability, had propelled Pitt’s efforts.

“I think Pitt is more aware. I think we’re definitely leaders of sustainability,” Jones, 39, said.

Jones said Pitt’s mobilization to become more sustainable can become near-perfect with full participation from Pitt students.

Likewise, Ward Allebach, Pitt lecturer for sustainability and management of environmental and non-profit organizations, has stressed the importance of students reconsidering mundane decisions to make Pitt an effectively sustainable environment.

“Everything we do over the course of the day has an impact. If you understand this and do not do this, I think you’re really not doing good for the community,” he said.

To start, Pitt’s Sustainability webpage includes sustainable practices that Pitt students can incorporate into their lives. The list includes things students can do, including turning off lights when you leave a room, setting their laptops to sleep mode, turning off the faucet when brushing their teeth, and taking 10 minutes or less to shower. When on the go, the site says, students can use refillable beverage cups.

Pitt students can also try swapping their usual school supplies for their “greener” counterparts — the University Store sells school supplies made from recycled materials.

Renée Galloway, Supplier Diversity and Sustainability Coordinator at Pitt, said options include notebooks made from sugar cane, a line of pens made from plastic bottles and another line of pens made from post-recyclable material.

According to University spokesperson John Fedele, 10 to 12 percent of the University Store’s supply are recycled products.

Roaring Spring Paper Products produces some of the goods Pitt sells in the University Store and has taken additional measures to become more environmentally conscious.

Jim Lucey, vice president of sale and marketing at the company, said using recycled products is particularly important in the U.S.

“In the United States, we plant more trees than we harvest. So, [our company is] keeping stuff out of the landfills,” he said.

Lucey, who’s been with company for 25 years, had observed that his sales for sustainable and recycled paper products varied across the country — he sells more sustainable products and recycled material in Pennsylvania than in other region of the United States.

“It really depends on the campus and their sensitivity to get recycled or sustainable products. We see a wide variation,” he said.

Additionally, Matt Walaan, business and personnel manager of Pitt’s Housing Services, said taking small steps to become more environmentally-friendly was a very important, understated strategy in the housing efforts.

Walaan said Housing Services has put recycling bins in every Pitt dorm room, replaced the older tissue paper with tissue paper made without the cardboard coil and has had housing staff use “greener” cleaning supplies.

Allebach, 49, suggests students who are passionate about sustainability should get involved in or develop their own initiatives for sustainability — he noted it’s not nearly as difficult as it seems.

Allebach sees personal initiative in students as an admirable and overlooked step.

“We are trained to live our lives mindlessly. Go about your business mindlessly. Live your life, buy stuff, do stuff, get money, get good grades, buy a nice car,” Allebach said. “You’re presented with these things as if you don’t have a choice. Anything that inspires you, anything that strikes a chord in what you do, you can do.”

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