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University Of Pittsburgh Names 5 Finalists In Pitt Sustainability Challenge

From freezer upgrades in labs to geothermal heating and cooling at Johnstown, the winner will move the University of Pittsburgh toward its carbon neutrality goal.

Following months of deliberation, an evaluation committee has narrowed applications for the Pitt Sustainability Challenge down to five finalists.

The initiative will award $300,000 to an integrated, impactful, durable and feasible solution to advance carbon neutrality at Pitt as the University works to achieve carbon neutrality by 2037 — the 250th anniversary of the University’s founding.

Among the many efforts under the Pitt Sustainability Plan and beyond are initiatives balancing equity, environment and economics to ensure current and future generations can thrive across disciplines, domains and scales.

The winner of the Challenge will be a key part in this goal.

September 14 Pitch Event

A Pitt Sustainability Challenge Finalist Pitch Event will be held on Sept. 14, 2023, at the Petersen Events Center from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Members of the Pitt community and general public are invited to hear all five finalists publicly pitch their solutions. A winner will also be selected at this celebration.

Registration for the event is requested, as space is limited.

Get to know the finalists

-- “Chill Up” Challenge by Pitt Green Labs: Because they need to freeze specimens or keep chemicals cool, research labs can be 3 to 6 times more energy intensive than an average commercial building.

The “Chill Up” Challenge proposal would offer freezer upgrade rebates, incentives to share freezers and reduce barriers to “chilling up” with education and access to cleaning freezers.

One of the most impactful changes a lab can make is replacing old, energy inefficient, ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers and “chilling up” their ULT freezers to -70 rather than -80 degrees. This action can reduce energy consumption by an average of 37% without compromising specimens.

Chill Up also wants to increase engagement with the Pitt Green Labs program, which provides recommendations and resources to help Pitt laboratories incorporate sustainability best practices (so far, only 22 labs have participated in the Pitt Green Lab program out of over 2,000 across the University).

-- CO2IReduce by University of Pittsburgh: The CO2IReduce project would collect data and create a personalized dashboard relevant to each individual to demonstrate how they can use space efficiently and reduce their carbon footprint.

A key goal of the project is to provide scalable solutions to make even the least energy efficient buildings more efficient, especially when compared with new buildings or vast renovations.

-- Ecotone Renewables’ Anaerobic Digestion Technology: Ecotone Renewables’ Anaerobic Digestion Technology looks to divert carbon emissions by converting local food waste into nutrient-dense, ready-to-use fertilizer.

Excessive food waste and dying soils are having a profoundly negative global impact, notably in creating extreme atmospheric carbon levels. It also expands landfills, leads to less healthy plant life and a weakens the soil microbiome.

ZEUS anaerobic digesters on or near campus would address these issues by processing 10 tons of food waste and diverting 120 tons of CO2 emissions per system per year, aiding in Pitt’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2037.

This waste would then be converted into 2,600 gallons of Soil Sauce, a ready-to-use, ultra-clean, nutrient-microbial-rich fertilizer.

This fertilizer will support Pitt’s expanding garden and tree cover infrastructure by improving the vitality of green roofs, increase edible garden yields by 34%, and increase campus tree and plant life’s ability to capture carbon — putting it back in the land rather than the atmosphere.

-- Panther Tracks by S&B USA Construction: In fiscal year 2019, commuter travel represented 16.4% of Pitt’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Due to Pitt’s size, geographic pull and relative shortage of nearby affordable housing, many community members rely on personal vehicles to get to campus.

S&B USA Construction aims to facilitate regional transportation decarbonization and increase the University’s electric vehicle charging and eMobility infrastructure.

They plan to leverage the physical places that University of Pittsburgh controls (such as garages, lots, and adjacent buildings) across campuses to support the transition of single occupancy vehicles shuttles, shared use vehicles, and micromobility to zero emissions.

The project’s budget would be used to deliver two solutions: a comprehensive decision-making and prioritization plan for short-, medium- and long-term investment and a pilot project to engage all stakeholders and lay the groundwork for future expansion.

-- UPJ Geothermal Tunnels Feasibility Study: The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has an unseen resource under the campus grounds — mining tunnels that can provide sustainable geothermal energy.

This year, Pitt-Johnstown’s electricity consumption is trending 60-70% above budget allocations. A sustainable solution is needed, and this project would also result in savings via tax credits.

The team will complete the feasibility study and project management plan to use the existing tunnels as a geothermal heating and cooling source; the solution will tie together campus-wide systems effectively.

The intended outcomes for this feasibility study include identifying measures to benefit the regional community, reducing energy consumption and serving as a model project for large scale geothermal projects.

The study will be led by partners at Apex Companies and H.F. Lenz, who both hire Pitt alumni. Geothermal heating and cooling will also serve the campus and its students by resolving system issues concerning the physical plant.

The project will serve Pitt-Johnstown supporters by stewarding the campus’ natural setting, revenue and assets in the most responsible way.

Click Here for more information on the finalists.

For current news and additional details about the challenge, visit the Pitt Sustainability Challenge website.


-- Pittsburgh Business Times: University Of Pittsburgh Names Finalists Advancing In Pitt Sustainability Challenge

[Posted: July 12, 2023]


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