One Pitt, One Planet

Issue Date: 
April 27, 2015

Last August outside the Petersen Events Center, a “living” world globe was created by 3,800 Pitt freshmen holding blue and red LED lights, forming the planet’s image. It was a school-spirit bid by the Class of 2018 to break a Guinness world record for the largest torch-lit image ever assembled.

It was also the kick-off event for Pitt’s 2014-15 Year of Sustainability with the theme, “One Pitt, One Planet.” The Provost’s Office announced the yearlong celebration in summer 2014.

“We hope the Year of Sustainability will encourage faculty, staff, and students to think about how they can incorporate sustainability into their current practices and make it a focus of both research and education,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson at the time.

Since then, Pitt’s Year of Sustainability has produced a whole new spectrum of initiatives that are now part of the University’s DNA moving forward.

Among the year’s highlights are:

• A new fellows program in sustainability, established to support scholarly research and new curriculum related to sustainability

• The creation of a Student Office of Sustainability with an ongoing roster of sustainability events, programs, and volunteer services

• A sustainable solutions competition to create the next “big ideas” in sustainability for the Pitt campus, implemented by the Student Office of Sustainability, PittServes, and the Mascaro Center, with $25,000 in support from the Provost’s Office. The competition engaged five interdisciplinary teams of students and a multitude of faculty and staff experts, coaches, and judges from the University and the community. The winning proposal focused on a retrofit of the Litchfield Towers Lobby to incorporate permanent, sustainable features.

• A multitude of educational and academic engagement events in sustainability, with $100,000 allocated by the Provost’s Office, to support lectures, seminars, workshops, and colloquia throughout schools and departments, including law, business, social work, public and international affairs, public health, global studies, German, philosophy, English, chemistry, gender studies, and engineering.

• An inaugural sustainability awards program recognizing and celebrating those individuals and groups who are generating awareness and implementing new projects or catalyzing new initiatives in education, research, and practices.

• A new standard established by the Swanson School of Engineering, incorporating a sustainability component in all students’ senior design projects, with all projects highlighted at a school expo.

• The Green Speakeasy lecture series, created and hosted by the provost, bringing together faculty and graduate students for “happy hour” discussions in a casual setting to address sustainability topics and stimulate new projects and collaborations. 

These are just a few examples of the many ways in which sustainability is being woven integrally into Pitt’s blue and gold fabric. The 2014-15 activities extended Pitt’s commitment, accelerated its progress, and deepened its impact.

“The Year of Sustainability has been a tremendous success, engaging the full community in developing research and educational programs and expanding sustainable practices throughout the University. The structures, culture, and programs that have been established will provide a foundation for an even greater level of engagement moving forward,” Beeson said. 

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