Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.31
Liaison Natalie Walker
Submission Date Aug. 9, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Pennsylvania
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Natalie Walker
Sustainability Manager
Penn Sustainability
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Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement:

Green Living Certification Eco-Reps Project

2 Student Eco-Reps worked to help grow and coordinate the Green Living Certification on Penn's campus, a point-based educational tool recognizing students for their sustainability choices and helping spread awareness of environmentally-friendly lifestyle choice. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/PDF_posters/Final%20Report-%20Green%20Living%20Hope%20and%20Catherine.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Public Engagement:

Sustainable Solutions Eco-Reps Project

Sustainable Solutions was a Spring 2019 competition where participants identified and made plans to implement project-based, local solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Philadelphia. The project was developed by a Student Eco-Rep with mentorship from faculty in the Weitzman School of Design. https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/contest-fosters-local-solutions-global-sustainability-challenges


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Air & Climate:

Lichen as a Bioindicator of Air Quality Eco-Reps Project

Three Student Eco-Reps worked with Facilities and Real Estate Services staff and researchers on campus to audit lichen species—primarily in Penn Park. By utilizing iNaturalist to identify species and by reviewing existing literature, students were able to understand what the presence of specific species indicates about air quality in the park. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/Lichen%20as%20a%20Bioindicator%20of%20Air%20Quality%20Final%20Report.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Buildings:

Bird and Bird Strike Tracking Eco-Reps Project

Two Student Eco-Reps worked with staff at Facilities and Real Estate Services and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to track bird strikes on campus—including what types of birds and where strikes are most common. Students also researched what other institutions do to address this issue, as well as developed messaging to raise awareness about “what to do if you find a bird” on campus. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/Bird%20Strikes%20Final%20Report.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Energy:

Energy Dashboards in the High Rises Eco-Reps Project

Three Student Eco-Reps worked with the Center for Environmental Building and Design, Facilities and Real Estate Services, and other campus partners to research the potential for a dashboard to visualize energy data of the residential buildings on campus. The dashboard focused on the high rise college houses (Rodin, Harrison, and Harnwell), because the best comparisons can be made with these three identical buildings. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/Pennergy%20Final%20Report.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Food & Dining:

Penn Food and Wellness Collaborative at the Penn Park Farm

The Penn Park Farm, which officially opened in Fall 2020, will be host to a wide variety of programming including class visits, internships, workshops, volunteer opportunities, and events, with an emphasis on promoting wellness on campus. Nestled between open recreational fields and the existing Penn Park Orchard, the Penn Park Farm boasts a hoop house for season extension and in-ground beds for growing. The farm utilizes sustainable growing practices.
https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/farm-community-food-wellness-collaborative

Assessing Attitudes toward Incorporating Fresh Produce into an Employee Food Pantry - A Mixed Method Pilot Study” is a capstone project by a University of Pennsylvania MPH student. This project is a mixed-method pilot study that explores the relationship between consumer satisfaction with a work-based food pantry and the introduction of fresh produce. The collaboration between the Penn Food and Wellness Collaborative and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Food Pantry was established in September 2020 with a goal to introduce fresh produce from the farm to the weekly food bags for food-insecure employees. The objectives of the program were to establish a partnership between two existing programs (the Penn Farm and HUP Food Pantry); determine if incorporating fresh produce from the Penn Farm improved participant’s desire to participate in the program; and engage stakeholders and provide evidence for future funding for the expansion of the food pantry. Future expansion of this project by other capstone students include, servicing vulnerable populations such as food-insecure HUP patients, first-generation, low-income students at the University of Pennsylvania, and food-insecure households within the West Philadelphia region that are referred by social workers and medical providers.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Grounds:

Penn Park Meadows Eco-Reps Project

Three Student Eco-Reps studied the biodiversity in specific meadows located at Penn Park, which are grown as an alternative to mono-species lawns. In addition to creating biodiversity, these spaces have various benefits such as reduced irrigation, reduced mowing requirements, improved stormwater absorption, and improved ecosystem benefits. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/PDF_posters/Final%20Report%20Outline%20Penn%20Meadows.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Purchasing:

Integrated Product Design (IPD) 552 Waste Minimization in Catering Project

Caterers who deliver food to Penn events bring one-time use platters, serving utensils, and containers. Faculty, staff, and students enjoying these meals also use single-use disposable plates and utensils. These items collect in kitchens and that fill our waste bins at the end of an event. Penn Sustainability was interested in looking at the issues contributing to waste in catering and developing better solutions. At the same time, Penn Purchasing was evaluating the sustainability of caterers and ranking them accordingly, encouraging caterers to do even more. The students working on this project developed proposed solutions at the intersection of design and behavioral change to reduce this catering waste.


IIs the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Transportation:

Megan Ryerson's City Planning 750 Class: Advanced Transportation Seminar

In the Spring of 2020, Professor Megan Ryerson (UPS Chair of Transportation at Penn’s Weitzman School of Design) taught the course CPLN 750: Advanced Transportation Seminar with an emphasis on reducing air travel emissions from Penn’s own travel. Dr. Ryerson’s students worked with Mark Mills (Executive Director and Chief Procurement Officer, Purchasing Services) and his team in Purchasing Services to comprehend the scope of air travel emissions from Penn travel and the current systems that exist for data collection. The students also surveyed faculty, staff, and students regarding their awareness of air travel emissions and to learn how they make travel decisions. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/news/campus-lab-reducing-air-travel-emissions


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Waste:

Nursing Simulated Health Care Environment Eco-Reps Project

Two Student Eco-Reps worked with School of Nursing staff to understand best practices in simulation lab sustainability. Students researched best practices and actions of other institutions, as well as learned about Penn's own practices through observations and meetings. The students' project culminated in a series of recommendations to improve practices and waste reduction in Nursing, which would also have the potential for application in labs other Penn schools such as Dental and the Perelman School of Medicine. https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/Nursing%20Simulation%20Lab%20Final%20Report.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Water:

Campus Water Footprint Eco-Reps Project

This in-progress project during the 2020-2021 academic year has two Student Eco-Reps collaborating with the Water Center at Penn to analyze campus historical water usage, identify gaps in data, and explore opportunities for reducing potable water use on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning:

Climate Literacy and Civic Engagement Eco-Reps Project

This in-progress project during the 2020-2021 academic year has two Student Eco-Reps working with the Netter Center to develop a climate literacy assessment of Penn's undergraduate student body and K-12 schools in the area. Eco-Reps will provide recommendations for improving student climate literacy and expanding opportunities for a cohesive sustainability education at Penn and K-12 schools in the area.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability:

Joshua Harrington Davidson's City Planning 551 Class: Transport Justice

This course explores the concept of transport justice and how this idea can inform changes to public transit infrastructure. The first half of the course sets theoretical foundations through close reading and discussion of spatial and social justice theories, emphasizing questions of transportation and mobility. The second half of the course features a project-based application of these theories. Students develop analyses to inform a proposed extension to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) bus Route 52, which serves a corridor between the Kingsessing and Overbrook sections of West Philadelphia. Students are encouraged to explore multiple analytic approaches including: interviews and qualitative data collection; GIS and spatial analysis; quantitative analysis and predictive modeling, and more. The course culminates in written and oral presentations given to partners from SEPTA and other planning agencies in Philadelphia.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance:

Penn Program in Environmental Humanities: Total Impact Portfolio Challenge Eco-Reps project

Alongside a team of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities staff and fellows, 3 Student Eco-Reps developed educational and media materials (blog posts, independent research) around the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge. The challenge focuses on the sustainability of economics and finance. Learn more about the PPEH project here.

https://sustainability.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/PPEH%20Final%20Report.pdf


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

Masters in Public Health Capstone: "Experiences with nature and stress for the Penn community: A needs assessment survey for the Nature Rx program"

Previous research has demonstrated an association between stress and college campuses, as well as that time in nature can be a stress reliever. Nature Rx is a program that was created in order to combat the negative effects of stress on college campuses. Already proven successful at Cornell University, the Nature Rx program was recently launched at the University of Pennsylvania. In order to better understand how to tailor the Nature Rx program for the University of Pennsylvania community, we constructed a community needs assessment survey focused on learning the following from the students, faculty, and staff: 1) how they rate their levels of stress; 2) their experiences with and perceptions of nature; 3) the kinds of outdoor activities that might interest them; 4) their preferred forms of communication to engage with the program; and 5) how COVID-19 physical isolation mandates have influenced participants’ time spent in nature. The survey was sent out through email and responses were recorded over a two-week period. The results showed that respondents perceived nature’s positive effects on mental health and that Nature Rx programs could help promote lower stress levels among this population. The results of this analysis can be used to inform the Nature Rx program and can serve as a baseline for future program assessments.


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The University of Pennsylvania is a major research institution, with over 3,000 degrees granted annually from twelve professional and academic schools at the Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate levels. Penn is committed to reducing emissions and energy use, as stated in the 2019 "Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0." This submission documents Penn's efforts during the FY20 year and compares them to the FY09 baseline year which corresponds with the University's "Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0." The submission relies on information related to the main, academic, West Philadelphia campus, but to more fully document efforts across the Penn system, information related to the Morris Arboretum and New Bolton Center has also been referenced and noted as outside the boundary in descriptions. The information is used to enrich examples of University efforts and is not intended to be the primary justification for credits. The responses for each of the questions and sub-questions are drawn from University materials, both internal and public documents. Each section notes the website where the information can be found.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.