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Development of a Student-Centered Penn State Sustainability Metric - The PawPrint


Andy Lau,

About the Project

Development of a Student-Centered Penn State Sustainability Metric - The PawPrint was funded by Penn State's Sustainability Institute's Reinvention Fund at the University Park campus in the amount of $14,270.

The ultimate goal of this project is to assist students in behaving more sustainably by understanding the many day-to-day choices they make and their impact on sustainability. Preliminary estimates of these impacts on ecological footprint indicate that it is possible to reduce one’s footprint by up to two-thirds. Making good choices requires that we are informed about the effects of those choices. The on-campus students at University Park will have the capability to examine nearly every aspect of their daily life at Penn State with a sustainability lens.

Pawprint tool diagramWhy?
In order to act more sustainably, we need to know where we stand, where we want to go, and the significance of our actions to move us along that path. An excellent and widely accepted metric of our impact on the environment is ecological footprint (EF), a measure of the amount of the Earth’s surface that is needed to provide our resources and to absorb our wastes. There are a few online estimators of EF and while they are generally useful, students find that they don’t seem to apply to their lives as college students. 

This project proposes to develop a more relevant and educational metric of sustainability, targeted toward students living at University Park – the Penn State PawPrint, or PawPrint (PP) for short. To make it more useful as a learning tool, the PP will also feature suggestions for change and what-if options that guide student’s in reducing their PP.