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The Sustainability Institute

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"Sustainability is the simultaneous pursuit of human health & happiness, environmental quality and economic well-being for current and future generations."
Penn State's Sustainability Strategic Plan

Penn State is a public research university that educates students from Pennsylvania, the nation and the world, and improves the well-being and health of individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research and service. The University has embraced sustainability as a foundational principle that enriches all of its pursuits and missions, and is committed to advancing the understanding and resolution of sustainability challenges on campus, in our communities and around the world.

The Sustainability Institute (SI) was created to lead Penn State toward the University’s sustainability mission: a comprehensive integration of sustainability into the University’s research, teaching, outreach and operations that prepares students, faculty and staff to be sustainability leaders in their professional, personal and civic lives.

Read the Sustainability Institute's Strategic Plan. 

Meet the staff.

Sustainability Institute Programs

Sustainable Communities

The Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC) is the University’s strategic platform and opportunity to develop innovative University/community-based collaborations that engage PSU faculty and students in existing courses from across the University through real world, community-identified sustainability projects. Through the SCC, Penn State will initially partner with selected communities in Pennsylvania to meet their sustainability goals.

The SCC tripled the number of projects (37), doubled the number of students (373), doubled the number of faculty leaders (20) and almost tripled the number of community partners (11).

green teams

Green Teams are groups of faculty, staff and students volunteering to take specific actions to help their organization (college, department, building, etc.) operate in a more efficient, innovative and healthy way. Currently, the University has 102 Green Teams, with 22 of them at the Commonwealth Campuses, operating in various departments.The Penn State Sustainability Institute sponsors the Green Team program and supports it with information resources and training.

The University has 102 Green Teams, with 22 of them at the Commonwealth Campuses.

green pawsThe Green Paws Program is a simple, yet effective way for faculty and staff to "green" their workspace and earn a Green Paws Office Certification for their efforts. The Program is organized into four levels of certification that signify an office's progression towards higher and higher levels of efficiency, health and environmental sustainability. More than 1,200 faculty and staff participate in the Green Paws Program.

More than 1,200 faculty and staff participate in the Green Paws Program.

The interdisciplinary Sustainable Food Systems Program aims to make our own Penn State campus and food system a living laboratory for engagement in sustainable agriculture and food systems by strategically linking classroom education with experiential education, research and community outreach.

Flagship components of the SFSP include a working Student Farm, a highly active Student Farm Club, and myriad opportunities for collaborations across the Penn State curriculum.

Minor in Sustainability Leadership image

The Intercollege Minor in Sustainability Leadership allows students in any major to incorporate sustainability as a significant theme in their undergraduate degree program. Through a combination of coursework and immersive experiences in sustainability, students develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to become sustainability leaders in their respective fields.

A wide variety of courses from across the university are eligible for inclusion in the sustainability leadership minor.

Mainstream: Penn State's Sustainability Highlights is a weekly newsletter showcasing sustainability-related stories involving all campuses at Penn State. You can sign up for the newsletter and view archives of previous issues. You can also connect with sustainability at Penn State through social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram

Sign up to receive Mainstream.

Penn State’s Sustainability Institute provides limited, supplemental funding support for speakers, films and outreach events addressing scholarly and/or creative work on the topic of sustainability. Programs that solicit funding from other sponsors will be favorably reviewed. Funding is contingent on the Outreach Fund’s balance. Requests will be reviewed in a timely fashion by Sustainability Institute staff.

Apply for funding.

The Sustainability Institute has put together tools and resources to support unit's effective implementation of the guidelines for sustainability found in the Unit-Level Strategic Planning Guidelines for FY 2013-14 through 2018-19 sent on June 14, 2013 from then Provost, Dr. Robert Pangborn. The Sustainability Strategic Planning guidebook is the result of a several month process involving faculty from multiple colleges and staff from several units. The guidebook aims to help Penn State colleges, campuses and units engage with sustainability strategically. 

"Our intent is that this guidebook, and related Sustainability Institute (SI) services, helps every Penn State unit finds its unique, strategic contribution to our collective vision of a community dedicated to a sustainable future." — Dr. Denice Wardrop, director of Penn State's Sustainability Institute

Reinvention Fund The purpose of the Reinvention Fund is to provide resources to innovative teams seeking to pursue interdisciplinary and holistic solutions to sustainability challenges in a way that fosters cross functional integration of Penn State’s teaching, research, outreach, operation, and administration expertise, so that our university community can link and leverage our depth and build our collective capacity in pursuit of sustainability. 

The Reinvention Fund has awarded more than $875,000 for sustainability-related projects. Faculty/staff received $773,485 and student proposals received $102,884.