Sustainability work continues as campus population increases


The University community will find increased sustainability efforts on campus as Pitt begins to offer more in-person services.

“What we’re really trying to do is re-instill that culture of sustainability on campus, and just remind people of some of the things that they haven’t experienced for almost a year-and-a-half,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability.

As the University transitioned to mostly remote operations in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharrard said there was a noticeable decrease in energy and water usage and waste creation. 

However, as more people come on campus, she expects those numbers to “rebound a bit.” Facilities Management will continue its efficiency and conservation efforts on campus, she added.

There are multiple ways for people to recycle a variety of materials on campus, including bottles, jugs, cans and glass. The University offers composting, sustainable food options, and, as of January 2020, textile recycling.

As people return to campus, they will find more sustainable campus dining practices. Pitt’s campus dining vendor, Compass Group, has been embedding sustainability in its operations, Sharrard said. Some of these practices include using plant-forward options on its menus and offering local products.

“We’re trying to get everybody to think reuse and sustainability first, and make those choices upfront at the cash register when they’re making a purchase before they get to that disposable option,” Sharrard said.

To keep staff engaged with sustainability, the University launched the green home office challenge and hosted video sessions that taught people how to conserve energy, start a compost bin, plant a pollinator garden and other practices.

Sharrard said she hopes the Pitt community will take lessons learned about sustainability and apply them to life back on campus.

“As people return to campus and are really looking to reflect the values that they’ve come to treasure over the past year,” Sharrard said. “We just ask that they continue to deploy those on campus as well.”

Additionally, as people return to campus, flexible work arrangements can help people avoid commutes, which decreases localized air pollution and global greenhouse gas.

Sharrard recommends that Pitt employees headed to campus use the Port Authority Transit, carpool programs and biking options.

Every day, people can make decisions to help promote sustainability on campus, Sharrard said.

“I think the final takeaway is we’re really trying to embed sustainability across all opportunities and decisions at Pitt for employees,” Sharrard said. “We just need people to opt-in and help us continue on this journey.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


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