Allegheny College Receives Western Pennsylvania Environmental Award

Allegheny College has been honored with the 2020 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Award, recognizing its 13-year program to achieve carbon neutrality on campus, becoming only the eighth college in the U.S. to realize this goal.

The Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards are presented annually by Dominion Energy and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to local organizations that demonstrate leadership, effectiveness, and results in making an impact on the environment. The College was one of three organizations that were chosen by a group of independent judges, environmental experts, and council staff in response to a call for nominations earlier this year.

Students biking on campus on an autumn day“The award celebrates a significant moment in our sustainability work, our achievement of carbon neutrality, but more importantly honors the collaborative effort of countless students, faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni, and community partners to explore and implement ways to uphold our values and become a more sustainable and resilient institution,” said Kelly Boulton, the College’s director of sustainability and a 2002 Allegheny graduate.

As part of its award, Allegheny College will receive $5,000 to invest in a campus or community project to enhance sustainability. Projects will be considered from a number of recent proposals developed by students.

During the 13 years since the College set out to achieve carbon neutrality, it has completed annual greenhouse gas inventories, developed a Climate Action Plan, taken action to mitigate its environmental impact in daily operations and capital projects, and integrated environmental awareness and sustainability principles into the culture of campus life, the curriculum, and its institutional identity.

“I’ve been lucky to have been here for every year of our work, and while it’s impossible to choose just one of our tangible accomplishments as most significant, I’m most proud of the change in the culture of Allegheny in regards to sustainability,” said Boulton. “Sustainability is no longer seen as a stand-alone effort on the fringes. It is now seen as an essential core value and is integrated into institutional decision-making, strategic planning and operations. It is an inextricable element of our campus culture both in our daily behaviors and the identity and pride of our community.”

The campus has reduced its carbon footprint by nearly half, even as it grew in total square footage of building space. It shifted away from carbon-based fossil fuels by installing solar photovoltaic and luminescent solar concentrator panels on campus to generate renewable energy, installed three geothermal well-fields, and purchased wind-generated renewable energy credits.

Through the years, the College has engaged more than 7,000 enrolled students and hundreds of faculty and employees through annual events and a myriad of education campaigns including signage, social media, and behavior change programs.

Allegheny’s accomplishments serve as a role model for other colleges and universities as well. “Allegheny has been a climate action leader in higher education since we adopted our Environmental Guiding Principles in 2002, and other colleges and universities reach out regularly to ask about our tactics and lessons learned,” said Boulton. “I’ve spoken with students hoping to urge their institutions to commitment, faculty hoping to incorporate sustainability into the curriculum, facilities managers looking to improve operational efficiency, sustainability professionals looking to learn from our programs and process, and finance administrators curious about the costs and positive returns of sustainability efforts.

“Allegheny has a reputation for sustaining an ambitious commitment and engaging our students in hands-on climate action despite a limited budget and minimal sustainability staffing and other institutions call on us to help inform their own efforts,” said Boulton.

Dominion Energy and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council sponsor the Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards each year to encourage the community to emulate the achievements of the winning entries, thereby promoting innovative environmental efforts and enhancing the quality of life in Western Pennsylvania.

The College will be honored as an award winner at a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday, November 12.