The Department of Housing, in partnership with other University departments, strives to promote sustainability projects across campus. With nearly half of all undergraduate students living on campus, our sustainability initiatives have widespread impacts and serve to decrease the University’s environmental footprint.

Sustainable Housing News

  • The Department of Housing and Panther Central provided reusable shopping bags and water bottles to all on-campus residents upon their arrival in August! 
  • As part of the 2014-2015 Sustainability’s Sustainable Solutions Competition, Litchfield Towers Lobby received a number of efficiency upgrades including dual-flush toilets, solar window shades, automatic light sensors in the laundry room and fitness centers, high efficiency LED tube lights, and a new television screen dedicated to sustainability education. 
  • Housing has recently made drastic changes to its recycle program, including transitioning to single-stream, providing all students with a recycling bin, and more! See the “recycling” section for more information.
  • Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, Housing partnered with Residence Life and PittServes to pilot a program creating RA Sustainability Liaisons in the residence halls. Due to the program's success, it will continue throughout the 2016-2017 school year. The Sustainability RAs promote sustainability in the residence halls by promoting the Panther Power Down Showdown and RecycleMania competitions, encouraging sustainable behavior in students and RAs, serving as a resource to students in their building with sustainability questions and concerns, and providing suggestions to Housing to make further improvements to the residence halls.
  • The Department of Housing partnered with a group of students to install a rain garden this summer in Bouquet Gardens. Located between buildings E and F, this garden captures rainwater during storms which prevents this water from combining with sewage and overflowing into Pittsburgh’s rivers, which is a major source of pollution in this region.


Recycling reduces our impact on the environment by keeping material out of landfills and allowing them to be reused. This saves energy, preserves natural resources such as timber, water, metals, and oil, and preventing landfill emissions. The Department of Housing has offered a recycling program since 2008, and has recently made significant upgrades to the recycling program including:

  • Implementing single-stream recycling, meaning that students can put all their recyclables into one bin without having to sort it.
  • Providing every student room or apartment with a recycling bin.
  • Installing outdoor recycling bins at all residence halls.
  • Improving recycling bin access in public locations such as lobbies and lounges.
  • Increasing recycling capacity in recycling & trash rooms and loading docks.

To learn what can and cannot be recycled at Pitt, view our Single-Stream Recycling Guidelines and to learn more about recycling in your building check out our Housing Recycling Guide.

Hard-to-Recycle Items: Pitt has several services to recycle some items that cannot be recycled normally, including:

  • Battery recycling: located in Sutherland Lobby, WPU ground floor, Cathedral of Learning ground floor.
  • Cell phone recycling: located in computing labs on campus.
  • Clothing: clothing can be donated to Pitt’s on-campus thrift store, the University of Thriftsburgh, located in the O’Hara Student Union.


RecycleMania is a friendly competition between over 600 universities to see who can recycle the most and send the least to landfills. For 8-weeks each spring, schools report recycling and trash data. This data is used to rank the schools in a variety of categories. The competition serves both as a benchmarking tool and as a motivator to the student body to recycle more.

Housing services partners with student group Free the Planet, Residence Life, Facilities Management, and Pitt Athletics to plan and promote the program. During the competition in spring 2016, Pitt had a recycling rate of 43%! During the 8-week competition, that added up to 1,017,263 pounds of material that Pitt recycled! That prevented 1,424 metric tons of CO2 being emitted, which is the equivalent of 279 cars off the road, or the energy comsumption of 123 households! 

Spring 2016 Recycling Results

  • Grand Champion (highest recycling rate): Pitt ranked 64 out of 109
  • Per Capita Recycling Rate: Pitt ranked 28 out of 273 
  • Gorilla  Prize (total pounds recycled): Pitt ranked 11 out of 279
  • Waste Minimization: Pitt ranked 79 out of 115

Each year Pitt also organizes a tour of our local recycling plant and landfill to allow students to better understand what happens in our waste stream.  To learn more visit the RecycleMania page each spring, located under’s My Resources.

Sustainable Design and Construction

When constructing new buildings or making improvements to existing ones, Housing attempts to minimize environmental impacts. Examples include:

LEED Silver Certified Mark A. Nordenberg Residence Hall
LEED certification recognizes buildings for green practices, the following of which have been incorporated into Nordenberg Hall:

  • High-efficiency, low-flow plumbing fixtures will reduce water consumption by 35%
  • Street-level plantings and plants on the third floor patio are indigenous and require no irrigation.
  • Over 75% of all construction-related waste was recycled.
  • Over 20% of building materials have recycled content 
  • Over 20% of building materials were sourced from and manufactured within 500miles of Pittsburgh.
  • All adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring, carpets, and agrifiber materials used in the building have low-or no-VOCs.

Pitt Power Down Showdown

Every October residence halls compete in Pitt Power Down Showdown to see who can reduce their energy consumption the most. Stay posted for this year’s contest!

Other Sustainable Practices

  • Hydration Stations in almost every residence hall to avoid plastic water bottle waste
  • Installed first solar-powered compactor at Bouquet Gardens
  • The Department of Housing donates used furniture and other materials to the Pitt Surplus Store, allowing the items to be resold and kept out of landfills.
  • Aerators have been installed in most bathrooms, reducing the sink flow rate by an estimated 77%.
  • Over 1,000 Motion Sensor Lights have been installed in all trash rooms, most lounges, and many hallways, ensuring that only rooms in use are lit.
  • Housing has switched to using core-less toilet paper rolls in communal bathrooms. Converting over to the compact coreless toilet tissue reduced the number of cases of toilet paper by 684 in 2015-2016. As a result of using 684 less cases of toilet tissue, housing and food services lowered its environmental footprint by 22% and created 15,619 less pounds of waste!
  • University standard carpet installations must include a minimum of 25% recycled content.
  • Instead of getting thrown away, used mattresses get donated, either to Central America through Food for the Poor or locally through Blessings Board.

The new Sustainability Map makes it easier for students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community to locate sustainable infrastructure on Pitt's campus like hydration stations and rain gardens.