Blue, Gold, and Green: Sustainability at Pitt

Issue Date: 
January 23, 2012

Pitt Green Fund Sponsors Multiple Sustainability Projects on Campus

With almost a dozen sustainable projects on the docket and a small budget, members of the Green Fund Advisory Board (GFAB) have learned the importance of penny-pinching.

“We want to work on the projects that students want to see, and although we don’t have a large amount of financial resources, we have the capability to do all of them,” said Seth Bush, coordinator of the Pitt Green Fund and a Pitt senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering.

After a review in October, the nine-person GFAB determined that all project proposals submitted by students to the Pitt Green Fund were possible, with many of the ideas possibly reaching fruition this spring.

Among the projects completed in 2011—the Green Fund’s first year—were a Sustainable Pittsburgh Handbook for new students, Go Green signs featuring facts about water and energy consumption in residence halls (with expansion to academic buildings in the future), and a water-bottle refill station located within the William Pitt Union.

“This hydration station was so popular that the Pitt Union has taken on the cost and maintenance of the machine,” Bush said. “Two more hydration stations will be installed in the Hillman Library [sponsored by Facilities Management] and one in Sutherland Hall [sponsored by the Department of Housing] as early as this spring.”

The Green Fund has an annual budget of $5,000, which is provided by the Student Government Board from Pitt’s Student Activity Fund. Several projects will be undertaken during 2012:

• “GreenUp Move In” —On move-in day in late August, first-year students will receive a reusable tote with a water bottle and the Sustainable Pittsburgh Handbook;

• Energy Reduction Competition—Students living in campus residence halls can participate in this event, which will monitor the consumption of electricity, gas, and water. The competition, envisioned to occur annually, is currently planned for October 2012 during Energy Awareness Month. Prizes will be awarded;

• Compost Tea—Green matter (nitrogen-rich composted material from food scraps) will be collected from Sodexo, which handles food services at Pitt, and mixed with brown matter (dead leaves, paper towels) and a catalyst to create a liquid fertilizer. The resulting fertilizer is safer than chemical fertilizers because it does not contaminate water and reduces waste;

• Java Farm—Coffee grounds will be collected from Sodexo and taken to the student-run urban garden on Oakland Avenue. Plant to Plate, a Pitt student organization, will use the grounds to grow oyster mushrooms, which will be donated to Sodexo; and

• E-Cycling Drive—On move-out day in the spring, students will be able to donate unwanted electronics, appliances, and devices to eLoop, a local electronics recycling group that helps organizations manage “hard to recycle” waste. GFAB also hopes to partner with Pitt’s Surplus Property department in managing the electronic waste. This project is being merged with Pitt’s clothing bin project to create a program tentatively called Clutter With a Cause. Each residence hall will have one or more collection sites set up during the last two weeks of class for the donation of unwanted clothing to Goodwill, electronics or responsible recycling to eLoop, and unwanted nonperishable food items for donation to a food pantry.

The GFAB said its seeks to heighten sustainability awareness across campus. Bush said the fund not only helps the campus save resources and money, but it also breeds a new generation of sustainable-friendly students.

“Our projects empower students to practice sustainability whenever they can, all over campus,” said Bush.

In addition, participating students can receive hands-on experience with project management and build their interpersonal skills through their work with other students, organizations, and administrators.

For more information on the Pitt Green Fund, visit