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Past Initiatives


The following captures key initiatives the College has undertaken, many of which are still ongoing. Please note: This is not a comprehensive list of all activities.


  • Energy resources represent a significant part of the heat-plant budget and the bulk of the College’s carbon contribution to the atmosphere. In the heat plant, the College has greatly reduced its use of no. 6 fuel oil, which has greater carbon intensity than natural gas.
  • The College invested in new low–mono-nitrogen-oxides boilers at the heat plant in 2004 and is currently experimenting with high-efficiency, gas-fired condensing boilers with efficiencies approaching 96 percent.
  • The College has implemented numerous building retrofits and conservation measures. For example, all of the lighting improvements completed in College buildings since 2008 have combined savings of approximately 492,407 kWh and 466,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
  • The College offsets 100 percent of its electricity use through the purchase of RECs in the form of wind power.
  • The College invested in a Siemens building management system, which has netted millions of dollars in avoided costs and provides data that enables the College to participate in power-reduction programs.  
  • The College has a heating and cooling policy that maintains rooms at temperatures within the comfort range of 68–70 degrees during winter months and 75–78 degrees in summer months.

Water (use and quality)

  • In an effort to manage storm-water runoff, the College has installed porous pavement, rain gardens, infiltration beds, and underground infiltration systems that help to absorb rainwater. It has also constructed five green roofs, totaling approximately 31,000 square feet, to absorb rainwater, while also providing natural habitat.
  • The College uses some of its captured rainwater for landscape irrigation and has installed low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucets as well as high-efficiency laundry units and dishwashers.
  • Integrated pest management is the preferred means of treating the campus grounds. In 2010, the College began an extensive project to maintain the five-acre field between Mertz Hall and Magill Walk with nutrient-rich compost instead of standard synthetic herbicides and fertilizers. 

Waste management

  • The College offers single-stream recycling. It also recycles batteries, toner cartridges, computers, consumer electronics, appliances, and rubber tires in special collection locations or at particular times of the year.
  • The student-led Good Food Project and the Green Advisers group manage the day-to-day compost efforts on campus. Essie Mae’s Snack Bar, Kohlberg Coffee Bar, and the Science Center Coffee Bar also offer compostable cups, lids, coffee-cup sleeves, and napkins. By composting kitchen scraps and post-consumer waste, the College diverts more than 200 pounds of waste a day.
  • Used cooking oil is collected from Sharples Dining Hall and sent to a facility that produces biodiesel.
  • The student-run Trash to Treasure sale collects items donated from student dorms and sells them to the local community. The proceeds are donated to charity.


  • Very few students are allowed to bring a car to campus. Ninety-seven percent of students live in College housing, and the rest live within walking distance of campus.
  • A substantial number of faculty members and administrators live within walking distance of campus. The College is adjacent to the Swarthmore train station, which is a short ride from Philadelphia and connects to the Amtrak rail system. 
  • The College participates in TransitChek, which allows employees to purchase transit passes with pretax dollars.
  • The College operates shuttles to help community members access nearby colleges, the airport, and local shopping destinations.
  • Bicycle racks are provided throughout campus, and students operate a bike-share program.


  • Dining Services buys food directly from a number of local farmers and food producers and also works with a number of local, privately owned-and-operated food distributors. Each of these companies features locally produced items, provides employment to area residents, and each supports its own community.
  • Dining Services also participates in the Farm to Institution Program, which provides resources that allow the College to buy more from local farmers.
  • The College’s main food supplier (Feesers Inc.) is based in Harrisburg, Pa., and offers many Pennsylvania brands.