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September 11, 2014

The Year of Sustainability: It’s not just for students

treeLast month Pitt freshmen gathered outside the Petersen Events Center with upraised LED lights. In their bid to break the world record for the largest torchlit image, they assembled in a representation of the world globe, launching what Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson has declared the Year of Sustainability at Pitt.

The emphasis on sustainability isn’t for students alone. Event funding, awards and the opportunity to suggest ways Pitt can become greener all are available to faculty and staff.

“The programs and opportunities associated with the Year of Sustainability are designed to promote awareness of the possibilities for sustainability as a focus of research and education, and of the value of sustainable practices in our everyday lives,” said Beeson in a statement provided to the University Times.

“We hope that the Year of Sustainability will encourage faculty, staff and students to think about how they can incorporate sustainability into their current practices. We also hope it will create a platform for the many individuals already engaged in sustainability to share their ideas and practices with a wider audience, and enhance them as a result.”

Gena M. Kovalcik, codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, who is coordinating many of the Year of Sustainability efforts, said, “I think the campus is really primed for this,” adding that students are motivated and that many faculty are incorporating sustainability into their classes. “We want to acknowledge that this isn’t something new; it’s been going on for awhile now,” Kovalcik said.

“It’s interesting to see how many areas are interested,” she said, noting that departments and individuals University-wide are participating. Although the Mascaro Center is housed in the Swanson School of Engineering, Kovalcik said she has been collaborating with such diverse areas as Student Affairs; Parking, Transportation and Services, and Facilities Management, among others, on sustainability efforts. Political science and the School of Social Work are among the areas that have been awarded funding for sustainability-related presentations.

News and events are being compiled at The University’s 2013 Report on Sustainability, which encapsulates Pitt’s efforts, is posted on the site as well. Sustainability coordinator Dan Marcinko said an updated report will be on the University-wide sustainability working group’s agenda this year.

Kovalcik said, “We’re trying to engage people. We’re also trying to recognize people who have been doing things behind the scenes.”

Opportunities include:

• Faculty, staff and students are invited to apply for up to $10,000 in matching funds from the Provost’s office to support sustainability-related lectures and workshops.

As of Sept. 4, the Office of the Provost had funded seven events with Year of Sustainability lecture funds. Money for additional events remains available, Kovalcik said.

Programs that connect individuals from multiple departments are encouraged.  A request form is posted at

• The University is soliciting green ideas for possible implementation on campus. Kovalcik said a “share ideas” feature will be added soon at so members of the campus community can submit to the University sustainability coordinator their suggestions for making Pitt more sustainable.

• Nominations will open shortly for University sustainability awards to honor faculty, staff and students for noteworthy involvement in environmental efforts. Winners will be recognized in April at a presentation that Kovalcik said may become an annual event.

• Student Affairs spokesperson Shawn Ahearn said its PittServes office plans to add a sustainability program coordinator this fall for the new Student Office of Sustainability. That office, said Kovalcik, aims to connect the many student groups that are active in sustainability issues.

• Watch for additional emphasis on recycling and waste minimization as part of this year’s homecoming celebration, Kovalcik said. And, a zero-waste Pitt basketball game is being planned. The events serve not only to “do the right thing,” she said, but to raise awareness as well.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 47 Issue 2