Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Sustainable Employers Top Green Workplace Challenge

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge


Top scorers of the 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) were revealed September 14, 2017. A yearlong, friendly competition run by Sustainable Pittsburgh, the GWC enables businesses, nonprofits, municipalities, and universities to track and measure improvements in energy, water, waste, and transportation.

More than 90 employers from throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania completed the competition, twice the number from the previous GWC. In total, these participants took 2,009 green and sustainable “actions,” each of which earned them points in the challenge. Point-earning actions include: switching out less efficient light bulbs, implementing a recruitment policy to encourage diversity and inclusion, offering employees paid time off to volunteer in the community, establishing recycling programs, and encouraging carpooling.

Several participants focused on water saving tactics this year, including the installation of low flow faucets and toilets, waterless urinals, and being proactive about fixing leaks. These strategies, in part, led to water savings greater than the three previous GWC competitions combined. Participants saved more than 33 million gallons of water—enough to cover the playing surface of PNC Park to a depth of 46.3 feet.

Participants also saved enough energy to power 1,562 average U.S. homes for a year (16,889,806 kWh of energy), translating to $1.3 million in cost savings. Factoring in the social cost of carbon, the savings are between $1.45 – $2 million.  The amount of energy saved equates to more than all the owner-occupied homes in the 15219 zip code, including Polish Hill, Uptown, Hill District, North Oakland, and parts of Downtown.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, participants reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 11,662 US tons and prevented 1.22 US tons of PM 2.5 from entering the atmosphere.  Methane was reduced by 2,537 pounds.

Autumn Secrest, Green Workplace Challenge Program Manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh, said, “The results of this year’s Green Workplace Challenge are further demonstration of growing commitment to sustainable business practices. With more active participants than ever, representing thousands of employees in southwestern Pennsylvania, employers are showing just how every sustainable action adds up to make a difference. We all can be humbled and inspired by the commitment of these organizations.”

The evening’s keynote speaker, Bob Nutting, Principal Owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and member of CEOs for Sustainability, shared bottom-line benefits of sustainable business practices at organizations as diverse as PNC Park, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, and Ogden Newspapers. He described the competitive edge sustainability offers with advantages ranging from differentiation in the market to operational savings, employee engagement, and product innovation.

The 2016-2017 GWC top scorers in each category are as follows:

  • Micro Business Winner: Rolling Pepperoni
  • Small Business Winner: AE Works
  • Medium Business Winner: WESCO International
  • Large Business Winner (for the second year in a row): Highmark
  • Micro Nonprofit Winner: Millvale Community Library
  • Small Nonprofit Winner: CCI
  • Medium Nonprofit Winner: ALCOSAN
  • University Winner: University of Pittsburgh
  • Small Municipality Winner: Township of Upper St. Clair
  • Large Municipality Winner: Allegheny County

The Top Energy Saver Award was presented to the organization that achieved the highest percentage of measured reduction in workspace energy consumption from this competition year compared to the prior year, as measured using the US EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Sustainable Pittsburgh presented Millvale Community Library with the Top Energy Saver award. The Library reduced energy usage 27.8% over the course of the year.

Similarly, the Top Water Saver award is presented to the organization that achieved the highest percentage of measured reduction in workspace water consumption from this competition year compared to the prior year, also measured using EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Highmark received the Top Water Saver award, having reduced water usage 20.7%.

Sustainable Pittsburgh presented two additional awards this evening: Top Legacy Energy Saver and Top Legacy Water Saver. These awards are for the organizations that demonstrated the most energy savings and water savings, respectively, after participating in all four of the Green Workplace Challenge competitions.

Green Building Alliance (GBA) earned the Top Legacy Energy Saver Award. GBA has seen savings of 44.6% in energy compared to their baseline year of 2010-2011 (the first GWC competition year). Allegheny County earned the Top Legacy Water Saver Award, having seen savings of 33.09% in water compared to the original baseline year.

All winners received special awards made from reclaimed materials, produced by partners through the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

The cumulative water savings since the first GWC competition in 2011, through this fourth competition, resulted in participants saving more than 100 million gallons of water. This is enough to cover the playing surface of PNC Park to a depth of 138.2 feet.

The cumulative energy savings since the first GWC are more than $10 million (including social cost of carbon: $10.98 – $14.9 million).  This translates to saving a year’s worth of energy for 11,829 average U.S. households.

The Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge is an initiative of Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Champions for Sustainability business network. The GWC is on Twitter and Facebook . Constellation, an Exelon Company, is the GWC Presenting Sponsor and the Pittsburgh Business Times, 90.5 WESA and WYEP are the Media Sponsors.

More information about the GWC is available at or by contacting Kait Miller at

Sustainable Pittsburgh (SP) is a A 501(c)(3) nonprofit that affects decision-making in the Pittsburgh region to integrate economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental quality as the enduring accountability, bringing sustainable solutions for communities and businesses.  Champions for Sustainability (C4S) is a Sustainable Pittsburgh a network for sustainable business solutions, brings together companies large and small to put sustainability into practice. C4S provides value via education, technical assistance and consulting on operational needs, and serves as a catalyst for new enterprise and innovation for cementing the business case for sustainability.


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Ginette Walker Vinski Sustainable Pittsburgh
(412) 258-6646