Pitt helping to host Sustainability in Higher Education national conference


The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference is headed to Pittsburgh this year on Oct. 2 to 5 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and Pitt has some lessons for participants.

“AASHE is probably the most prominent organization involved in sustainability in higher education,” says Laura W. Zullo, director of administration in Business and Operations and part of a University team speaking about the Pitt sustainability planning process at the conference. “It’s a great opportunity for us. We felt like, as one of the larger universities in Pittsburgh, we ought to be involved.”

“We’re a major host institution,” says Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability.

The University will conduct a tour of the campus’s sustainability efforts, and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation exhibit in the conference’s Expo Hall will promote Pitt’s new Masters in Sustainable Engineering program. Faculty, staff and students involved in the University’s sustainability efforts will deliver presentations and posters on reducing waste, promoting reuse and creating new university sustainability programs, particularly in food service, from “How to capitalize on and celebrate small incremental change” to “Plant forward dining.”

Zullo says that the conference, which AASHE says attracts about 2,000 people annually, draws sustainability officials and experts from across the U.S. and the world.

“There are tons and tons of educational sessions (for) working with your peers and finding out what they are doing,” Zullo says. “There are a lot of best practices sessions. We are proud to present our sustainability plan. It makes some bold commitments.”

She also says they are proud of the way the plan was formed, including outreach to all segments of the Pitt community, from surveys to staffing a booth at Pitt’s farmer’s market for gathering plan input. “That was one of the strengths,” she says.

Pitt recently participated in AASHE’s annual sustainability rating survey for the first time and received a silver rating — the third of AASHE’s four categories.

“We’re pretty happy about that,” Zullo says. “But the big thing about that survey is it makes you think where you can also do better.”

Marty Levine is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.