Chatham University

Chatham's Environmental Commitments

Chatham University Office of Sustainability

Energy & Operations

Chatham has purchased renewable power either directly or through RECS since 2002, and now purchases 90% of their total electricity usage from a Green-E Certified mix of renewable energy that is primarily wind power. Chatham has installed solar thermal water heating for the University's Woodland and Fickes dormitories and completed the retrofitting of the lighting system at Chatham's Eastside building.

Recycling & Waste

Chatham boasts a composting program in its dining facilities that gathers pre– and post–consumer materials, including takeout containers. Waste fat is sent to a regional biodiesel plant. The school–wide single–stream recycling program is successful and includes student administration. This subcommittee works to promote and advertise the recycling efforts at Chatham.

  • RecycleMania – Chatham has been participants of RecycleMania which is an annual, nationwide competition between colleges and universities to compete in recycling, composting, and reducing the most trash. Begins in February and ends early April, this program raises awareness of and commitment to recycling for the whole campus community.
  • In Fall 2011, we eliminated the sale of plastic water bottles and implemented a reusable take out food container program for students.

Campus Grounds

In addition to being an arboretum, Chatham’s Shadyside campus is a collection of historic estates, wooded areas, and sweeping greens. Chatham has a decade–long no chemical pesticides policy and actively preserves green space throughout its campuses. The recent addition of Eden Hall Campus adds a farm and secondary forest to the list of land types that the University cares for. These areas are cared for by a grounds crew that works to maintain the integrity of the historical aspects of the campuses while sticking to the plant species native to western Pennsylvania.

Rea House is Chatham's environmentally themed student dorm, housing 28 students. Residents of Rea House must submit an application and participate in events that display a commitment to the environment and sustainability.


One major environmental concern of Pittsburgh is the management of stormwater. With an antiquated storm system, large rain events have a harmful effect on its waterways. Chatham has implemented a number of techniques to reduce the effects of stormwater. A historical pond has been restored to capture rainwater from the Mellon Green. The new athletic field allows water to infiltrate and slowly releases it into the sewer system, after the main push of the rain event. In 2010, a rain barrel was installed outside of the Rea house to capture rooftop run off and for watering the surrounding garden and in summer of 2011, a rain garden was installed behind Dilworth which contains certain species of plants that are capable of withstanding more saturation from the water runoff.

Alternative Transportation

Chatham maintains a fleet of shuttle buses, the Green Machines, that transport students between its Shadyside and Eastside Campuses, as well as to nearby local universities. These shuttles run on a 5% biodiesel blend. The remaining fuel is ultra-low sulphur diesel. Plans are in the works for a biodiesel pumping station to open near the Eastside campus, improving future biodiesel options.

Dr. Michael Boyd, member of the Climate Committee, was instrumental in developing the bike commuter benefit for Chatham. Chatham is now one of the first PA employers to offer a $20 a month tax credit to workers who bike for a "substantial portion" of their commute. The Bicycle Commuter Act tax credit was part of 2008's Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and Chatham was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for our participation:


The foodservice provider for Chatham's dining hall, Parkhurst, runs a program, FarmSource, which purchases 20% of its food from local sources. This reflects Chatham's commitment to community involvement in its food and reduces the carbon impact of food transportation. The dining hall provides vegan and vegetarian selections at all meals to accommodate the large population that prefers this low–carbon diet, as well as to reduce the campus footprint. Parkhurst also coordinates a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for the campus.

In 2009, after the success of Trayless Tuesdays, the dining hall eliminated the use of trays. This effort reduces water waste from washing trays and reduces wasted food. It is estimated that this causes a 25% reduction in energy use just from not having to heat so much water. People take less food and throw less away too. In 2008, the dining hall began composting both pre and post-consumer food. Chatham composted 44.75 pounds of food per person on campus. Starting in fall 2008, previously recycled used cooking oil is now sent to a local biodiesel plant. Also, all beverage and food containers on campus have been converted to fully-compostable wares.