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Student Group Disappointed with Pitt’s Sustainability Efforts

The University of Pittsburgh last year launched the “Year of Sustainability,” which features speakers, programs and initiatives to make the campus more energy efficient. Many of the efforts have been student-led, but as the year comes to a close a group of students say Pitt’s administration didn’t do enough.

“We’re just disappointed, in the area of sustainability there weren’t really many administrative sustainability proposals or initiative for projects, all the things done on campus were student-led,” said Andrew Woomer, Pitt student and organizer with Free the Planet.

Woomer said he and other students are thankful the university gives them space to work on sustainability initiatives but added that they would like to see more done on the administrative level.

“We didn’t see any emission cuts or waste cuts or water reduction really, if they did we haven’t heard about it,” said Woomer. “We’d really like to just see more leadership from the university as far as sustainability is concerned.”

Pitt Spokesman John Fedele said the students have beem misinformed.

"The university has made quite a number of efforts over the years, especially in the last year, on sustainability," Fedele said.

The Year of Sustainability website outlines many of the efforts taken by the institution and students. Plus, the university was listed as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada by the Princeton Review in 2013. Pitt last year also announced a $37.0 million funding initiative to support sustainability-related research and academics. A compaint from Woomer and his group is that that money only went into academics. Fedele said that was always its intended purpose.

Woomer said his group is thankful that Pitt officials give students time and space for sustainability efforts, but reiterated that they’d like to see the university do more.

“You know, over the summer if you walk around the dorms and stuff, there’s lights on when students aren’t there,” he said. “There’s vending machines that service bottled water, but we’d like to see more hydration stations, they’re like water bottle fillers. There’s a couple of them, but we want to see more.”

Fedele said the university has and continues to make energy efficient changes.

"Things like fitting buildings with smart sensors to turn off lights or turn off heating when offices and classrooms aren't in use," said Fedele, "re-using rain water - there's a really innovative function in the new Salk Hall addition, they have what's called a bioswale system and a rain garden."

Plus, he said Pitt  added 3 new green roofs on the Oakland campus in 2014, bringing the total to eight green roofs.

Fedele said the University has a strong commitment to sustainability and was an original signatory of the 1990 Talloires Declaration supporting mobilization of higher education resources for sustainability. Through energy initiatives, since 1996, the University has realized over $50 million in energy and water cost avoidance.

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