Pitt Green Office wants to boost sustainability efforts campus-wide

Logos for Pitt Green Suite


Think your office is doing its part to meet Pitt’s sustainability goals? Then maybe it’s time to see just how green your team is through the Office of Sustainability’s Pitt Green Office program.

The program is part of the Pitt Green Suite, said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability. It also includes pilot programs for designations as green labs, events, residents, floors and student organizations.

“It’s basically an engagement mechanism representing opportunity for everyone on campus, regardless of who they are, what they’re doing, what their affiliation is, for them to make better decisions and create better events where they are and what they do every day,” Sharrard said.


The four offices that received the top rating during the pilot program were:

  • Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation / Office of Sustainability

  • Office of PittServes

  • O’Hara Student Center

  • Office of Residence Life (Upper West Side)

The Green Office designation was piloted in the spring at 20 locations associated with Student Affairs. Of those, only four achieved the highest level — Deep Green — and four received no designation at all.

“That showed us that even within the early adopters, there was a lot of room in this designation to help people along their sustainability journey,” Sharrard said.

Now the program is open to any office, which can mean an entire department or a minimum of three people in a unit who share a common space or resources, such as a kitchen or the same purchasing manager.

“The idea is, first, that people will look at the opportunities themselves and talk with their teammates about what they’re doing in their office or their laboratory, … and then come up with their own ideas about what they could be doing next,” Sharrard said. “Do we have the opportunity to do something else? And how can we start to change the culture in every office around campus by having those conversations?”

Next, each office must fill out a self-assessment survey that evaluates the office across seven areas — Energy, Transportation, Purchasing, Waste, Printing, Food and Culture of Sustainability — that are critical to the Pitt Sustainability Plan.

The assessment form can be found on the Office of Sustainability website. The form can take a little as 10 minutes to fill out or can lead to a more in-depth discussion within an office.

Each of the areas is given a point value and those with 90 percent of the possible points get the Deep Green designations; 70 percent is Medium Green; and 50 percent is Light Green.

The Green Office program contributes to two goals in the Pitt Sustainability Plan:

  • Create an online sustainability education module for staff and develop departmental green teams.

  • Train all staff, incoming and retained, on how to infuse the tenants of sustainability into their everyday work at Pitt.

Sharrard is in the process of hiring a sustainability projects coordinator, who will help administer this suite of programs for faculty and staff across campus, and will be available to go out and help people take the next step in improving their green designation. Often, she said, offices haven’t made the decisions toward sustainability “because they didn’t know what their opportunities were or what they should do.”

For instance, “You may not be ready for composting yet, but let’s switch you over to tree-zero paper,” she said.

Right now, the Office of Sustainability also has a pilot program within the Pitt lab community to “really tell us are the questions that we put out there the right ones; do these work with your discipline? Are there some different health and safety requirements, and what are the opportunities for resource reduction, cost savings and things like that?”

“The questions are less about do you open and close your blinds and are you buying better paper (and more about) how are you handling your lab waste? Are you using electronic lab books instead of paper? All sorts of different laboratory strategies that those of us who don’t work in a lab on daily basis wouldn’t necessarily think of,” she said.

The green event designation has been around longer and Sharrard said there’s really been progress on that front.

In fall 2017, when the official certification for green events first became available, there were 10 events that met the criteria. For this fall, there already are 86 scheduled. “There are a number of student organizations that do these events regularly, and we’re starting to see more staff and faculty pursue them,” she said.

Details on different steps to take to achieve a green event certification, can be found here.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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