Here’s the Plan (for Pitt): Q&A on Sustainability

By MELISSA SCHILD                                             

This month, we welcome Aurora Sharrard, executive director of sustainability, to explain how Pitt’s broader sustainability efforts, specifically the new Pitt Climate Action Plan (PittCAP), support the strategic objectives in the Plan for Pitt.

Q: What is the Pitt Climate Action Plan, and why is it important?

A: The Pitt Climate Action Plan is the University’s first strategic road map for achieving carbon neutrality on the Pittsburgh campus by 2037. Developed under the direction of the Carbon Commitment Committee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability, PittCAP builds on the existing Pitt Sustainability Plan, establishing a clear pathway to approach the carbon opportunities and challenges faced by our campus, community and world.

While we’re already implementing PittCAP strategies across the University, our students, faculty and staff remain critical to the plan, advancing research, best practices and engagement that reduce and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. We all share one planet and must be part of equitable solutions to climate change, which is impacting us here in Pittsburgh and many others around the globe. 

Q: How does sustainability tie into Pitt’s mission and strategic plan?

A: The Plan for Pitt identifies sustainability as one of six core values that shape who we are and where we’re going. From the Campus Master Plan (2018) to the Pitt Sustainability Plan (2018) to the Institutional Master Plan (2021), sustainability is embedded in everything we do as a University community.

Carbon neutrality remains one of many sustainability goals we’re advancing at Pitt, not only in operations, but also in curriculum, research and outreach. Sustainability efforts advance change in systems at every scale to improve lives and communities; to do this, we must leverage our expertise to tackle society’s greatest and most pressing challenges together.

Q: What does integrating sustainability into Pitt’s priorities look like in practice?

A: We have a team of students, faculty and staff who work to help integrate sustainability into each school, department, office, classroom, lab, building, student group and purchasing decision at Pitt. We’re encouraging every Pitt community member to utilize green practices in their lives — and continue to develop new tools and resources to assist these decisions, including:

  • The “Pitt Green” suite of programs, which helps people learn how to implement sustainable actions, gain recognition for them, and create greener offices, labs and events.

  • The Sustainability Professional Certificate Program, which gives participants a deeper understanding of sustainability principles and the important role individuals play in helping Pitt achieve our sustainability goals.

  • Sustainability guidelines, which are embedded into University supplier and travel agreements.

  • Expanded mobility solutions that are better for the environment: from carpools and vanpools to electric vehicles, POGOH bike share access, and additional dedicated bike lanes and walking routes.

  • Connections to local, national and global partners to support a more sustainable future where everyone thrives, including CONNECT, the Higher Education Climate Consortium, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and Second Nature.

Q: How would you define success with respect to sustainability at Pitt?

A: Pitt has been on an inspiring upward trajectory in sustainability initiatives and resulting positive impacts over the past six years. While the University has an increasing number of certifications and awards that recognize these milestone achievements, the real success is in each step that the communities we serve take to create positive impacts for themselves and those around them. Seemingly small actions like taking public transit to work, not printing, choosing reusable to-go containers or donating to the Pitt Pantry make a significant difference. Success in Pitt Sustainability is empowering every Pitt student and employee to make a positive difference every day.

Do you have questions about the Plan for Pitt or suggestions for implementation? Reach out to

Melissa Schild is assistant vice chancellor for strategic planning and performance and leads the University’s strategic planning efforts.