MES 20th

Cheers to 20 Years!

The Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program at the University of Pennsylvania is celebrating its 20th anniversary! Over the last two decades Penn MES faculty, students and alumni have pushed the boundaries of the environmental field and addressed the complex issues facing our ever-changing planet. Learn about our incredible history, look towards the future with MES and discover what you can do to stay on the cutting-edge of environmental studies and practice.

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The MES Top 20

20 Ways You Can Shop Greener and Cleaner

When it comes to living eco-friendlier lives, one of the first and easiest steps is to change the way we shop. From buying environmentally-conscious brands to skipping the drive and walking to the store, there are plenty of ways we can get our favorite things while shrinking our carbon footprints.
- by Laura Barron (MES/MPH, ‘17-expected)

1. Buy items with limited packaging

Unlike water bottles, plastic packaging cannot be recycled. Look for products that are compostable. Avoid things like straws, plastic silverware and disposable containers and switch to paper containers when possible.

2. Bring a reusable coffee mug to your favorite coffee shop

If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 pounds of waste in one year. It’s a small change that can lead to major payoff. You may even get a little extra coffee for your money.

3. Buy refurbished furniture and electronics

Bulk waste adds significant weight to our landfills. Americans add 250 million pounds of waste to landfills annually according to a Purdue University report. Save yourself time and money, while also reducing your environmental burden by buying used, vintage or refurbished furniture and electronics.

4. Use recyclable bags at the grocery store

Using recyclable bags at the grocery store can help cut down on plastic waste going into landfills and accumulating in the trash vortex in our oceans, but be careful which bags you use!

5. Buy more veggies

One simple way to reduce your carbon footprint through diet is to limit or eliminate your consumption of meat products. Red meat alone contributes to 15% of global emissions according to The Guardian.

6. Get beer, wine and liquor from nearby makers

By reducing the miles your alcohol travels, you can cut down on emissions and support small business. Thankfully there is no shortage of breweries In Philadelphia.

7. Buy Fair Trade and local coffee

Like farms and beer distributors, buying local coffee helps cut down on carbon emissions and supports your regional economy. Though coffee cannot be grown in any climate in North America, just by buying locally-roasted, fair trade coffee, you partake in more eco-conscious practices.

8. Lather up locally, too

Swing by your favorite farmer’s market or main street boutique to find hand-made soap products. No factory-made emissions here. Just bubbles.

Get to know Community Supported Agriculture

9. Get to know Community Supported Agriculture

When you buy food from CSAs, it supports the regional economy and cuts down the carbon footprint of your meal!

10. Read the label

Where was this product made? Is it made of recyclable materials? Toilet paper, paper towels, foils and many other products can be made from 100% recycled materials. Make sure to look for that on the label when shopping!

11. Instead of owning a car, join a car share

Sharing a car with your neighbors means fewer cars on the road, and, therefore, fewer emissions! You can also help reduce the number of miles you drive by thinking more actively about your travel. Other car-sharing options include carpooling or using rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft.

12. Get moving

Transportation contributes to 14% of carbon emissions annually, according to the EPA. If you can skip the car ride to the grocery store, do it! By opting for walking, public transit or biking, you can significantly cut down on emissions, air pollution and urban heat island.

13. Buy an electric vehicle

If owning a car is an important part of your daily life, there are exciting new models out on the road that are energy-efficient. Electric and hybrid vehicles are an important step in lowering fossil fuel use.

14. Opt for biodegradable items

Be sure to compost and recycle when finished with the product. Natural waste in landfills can lead to methane emissions.

15. Go organic

Noted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, “Organic agriculture aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems.” Invest in environmental sustainability and be sure to check that items are certified organic before purchase.

16. Give green gifts

Know someone who is passionate about environmental change? Make a charitable donation in their name. It’s as thoughtful as it is impactful.

17. Pick up cloth napkins instead of paper

Millions of paper napkins and paper towels are thrown away every day. Do your part to reduce paper waste and wipe up with a reusable and easy-to-clean cloth or bamboo napkin.

18. Buy rechargeable batteries

Buying fewer batteries means cutting down on consumption and production. It also means lowering the amount of waste. According to Earth 911, 250 million pounds of batteries end up in landfills each year and can leak toxic chemicals into our land, water and air.

19. Stock up on white vinegar

It’s amazing what you can do with vinegar, baking soda, lemon and a little tea tree oil. Not only are you using fewer chemically-processed items, but you’re also saving money!

20. Volunteer!

There are many great non-profit organizations seeking to preserve and foster environmental sustainability in Philadelphia and beyond that need help.Your neighborhood will thank you, and you’ll feel great knowing you’ve done your part to protect our planet’s future as a consumer and a citizen.

20 Things You Can Do Every Day at Home to Help Improve the Environment

When it comes to ensuring our world has a brighter, greener future, all of us can pitch in. Change doesn’t just happen on Capitol Hill; it can happen in your home and it is easier than you think—here are 20 things you can do every day to help the environment!
- by Laura Barron (MES/MPH, ‘17-expected)

1. Drink from a reusable water bottle

According to Ban the Bottle, making bottles to meet America’s demand uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually. Plastics remain in the environment for a long time, polluting oceans and landfills. Drink from a reusable BPA-free bottle of water and save up to $1,400 in water bottle purchases.


2. Use Tupperware instead of Styrofoam or plastic containers

Styrofoam is considered hazardous waste and can also cause health impacts for workers and consumers.

3. Be sure to properly dispose of all glass, plastics, metal, and paper

Learn more about Philadelphia’s recycling requirements at The Philadelphia Streets Department's website.

4. Donate!

Americans trash more than 68 pounds of clothing per person and textiles annually, according to The Environmental Health Perspectives Journal. In addition to reducing waste, donating goods helps others in need. Organizations like Goodwill take donations and stores like H&M collect clothing for textile recycling.

5. Recycle your electronics

The world generates 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste (known as e-waste) annually. By recycling electronic items, you reduce e-waste toxins and the items can be refurbished and reused, or sustainably recycled!

6. Retrofit your home to improve energy efficiency

Reseal your windows, check your wall outlets and use thermal curtains. Heat can escape your house in unexpected places, from attic holes to wall outlets. Target the source of leaks to reduce energy consumption.

7. Use LED light bulbs and Energy Star appliances

Energy efficient appliances cut down on energy and water consumption, reducing environmental degradation and they save you money!

8. Source your home energy from wind or solar

If you live in Philadelphia, PECO Energy provides greener alternatives, such as local wind or solar. Using non-fossil fuel energy can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

9. Turn off lights

The age old adage, “Turn lights off when you leave the room!” is simple and effective. By not using energy when you’re not there, you save!

10. Unplug appliances

If you’re not using something, unplug it! When a cord is left plugged in, it still uses energy—as much as 10% can be added to your monthly energy bill, according to the Department of Energy.

11. Set timers on your heating and air conditioning systems to maximize efficiency

If you have a timer device on your heater or air conditioning, set it around your schedule so you won’t have to leave it running all day. Energy efficient devices such as the Nest thermostat allow you to control your home temperature remotely from your phone.

12. Know what temperature is most economical and efficient

In winter, setting your thermostat at 68 degrees, and in summer setting it at 78 degrees proves to be the most effective way to regulate the temperature, reduce energy consumption and save money.

13. Install a cool roof

A cool roof reflects sunlight and cools itself by emitting radiation to its surroundings, decreasing the urban heat island effect and lowering energy consumption. The roof stays cooler and reduces the heat conducted to the building below. You can make your roof cool simply by painting it white.

14. Turn your backyard into an eco-friendly landscape

Planting native grasses and plants fosters biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Eliminating pesticide use prevents toxins from seeping into the water supply or being ingested. Practice sustainable watering in your yard by not over-watering and watering early or late to prevent evaporation.

15. Green your local urban spaces

Greening urban areas can improve air quality, decrease stormwater overflow and reduce the heat island effect. Planting trees proves to be the most effective greening tool. To learn about the best trees to plant, read Henry Arnold’s publication about the most sustainable trees for urban areas.

16. Compost those table scraps

According to a recent report by the World Resources Institute, at least one third of all food is wasted annually. This creates methane build up in landfills and is catalytic to global warming. Composting can significantly reduce human emissions and provide environmentally friendly fertilizers.

17. Use water effectively

Time your showers, turn of the sink when you brush and hand-wash dishes or only doing a load of dishes when the dishwasher is full.It may feel like a small amount of water savings, but water is a scare commodity and it takes energy to deliver the water to your faucet, so every drop counts!

18. Wait to wash your clothes until you have a full load and hang dry what you can

Washing clothes uses more than 40 gallons of water per load, so make sure to maximize each load to save water and energy. In addition to reducing energy use and lowering individual carbon emissions, hang drying your clothes can save more than $100 a year.

19. Increase your GSI

Impervious surfaces, such as roads, parking lots, and buildings cause stormwater to flow rapidly into sewers, and the overflow contaminates local waterways. By increasing green stormwater infrastructure we can limit the run off. It can be as simple as planting a tree or using a rain catchment barrel!

20. Write a letter and let your voice be heard

Changing policy is ultimately the most effective way to improve the environment. By writing to your local congressperson or getting involved in voicing your support for sustainability, you can help not only contribute to change as an individual, but on a city-wide level.

20 of the Greenest Spaces on Campus

20 of the Greenest Spaces on Campus

The University of Pennsylvania is committed to sustainability through our robust Climate Action Plan. From our use of renewable energy, recycling practices to offering dozens of courses in the environmental field, Penn continues to lead the way in green infrastructure. Come see it in action.

James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden, BioPond and Greenhouses

1. James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden, BioPond and Greenhouses

Welcome to the oldest green space on Penn’s campus. Since 1897 this lush land has been dedicated to research. Enjoy the company of ducks, turtles, crayfish, goldfish and the cool shade of diverse and vibrant plant life at the the BioPond—tucked away on Hamilton Walk, between 36th and 38th Streets.

The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology

2. The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology

The home of nanotechnology innovation at Penn is LEED Gold certified. The plumbing fixtures and systems reduce water use to 30% below industry standards, while the building’s green roof helps to reduce stormwater runoff and urban heat island.
Photo © Albert Vecerka/Esto

Penn Park

3. Penn Park

Penn Park is 24 acres of recreational and athletic green space on the east end of campus bordering the Schuylkill River. Amongst the tennis courts and baseball diamond is acres of natural meadows and greenery that promotes biodiversity.

Wharton School’s Steinberg-Dietrich Hall West Tower Entrance

4. Wharton School’s Steinberg-Dietrich Hall West Tower Entrance

Minted LEED Gold in 2014, the West Tower Entrance of Steinberg-Dietrich Hall features a green roof; light pavers to reduce heat island; Chilled Beams cooling technology; recycled finishes; regional materials; and high efficiency lighting.
Photo by Jeffrey Totaro

Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center

5. Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center

This historic garden and educational institution’s Horticulture Center is LEED platinum certified. Design includes a ground-source heat pump that provides heat and air-conditioning for the building, photovoltaic panels for on-site generation of renewable energy and geothermal wells.

Perelman Quadrangle College Green

6. Perelman Quadrangle College Green

In the heart of Penn’s campus is its most beloved outdoor space. In front of College Hall there’s a 130-year-old elm that’s a descendant of the original treaty elm under which William Penn signed a peace agreement with the Lenape Indians in the 1680s.

7. Locust Walk

Locust Walk was one of the first spaces on campus composed of granite curbs and brick paving—permanent materials that stand the test of time. This tree-lined gateway to Penn is a landmark green space for the University.

George A. Weiss Pavilion

8. George A. Weiss Pavilion

What was formerly a parking garage is now a LEED Gold fitness center. Approximately 95 percent of demolition and construction waste from Weiss Pavilion was diverted from disposal in landfills by salvaging, reusing and recycling materials.

Joe’s Café

9. Joe’s Café

Have a cup of joe and enjoy a study break in a LEED Gold certified spot. Joe’s Café is Penn’s first sustainable commercial interior space. Its food-service practices, recycling, composting and chemical-free cleaning methods make it a green gem.

Shoemaker Green

10. Shoemaker Green

What was formerly tennis courts is now acres of grass lawns, native plants and permeable paving. It’s a pilot project for the Sustainable SITES Initiative, a national program designed to support sustainable land development and management practices.

The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

11. The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

Only a few hospitals in the nation have achieved LEED Silver rating and The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine is one of them. Built with recycled materials, it keeps approximately 3,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the environment each year with its green infrastructure and housekeeping.
Photo by Michael Verzella

Penn Institute for Urban Research

12. Penn Institute for Urban Research

In 2012, the Penn Institute for Urban Research collaborated with FRES, PJM Interconnection, the Philadelphia Navy Yard, PECO, EEB Hub and DOE Grid Star to develop a real-time energy ticker online to promote energy education and conservation.

School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) Recycling Center

13. School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) Recycling Center

Since opening in 2012, the SEAS Recycling Center has successfully diverted thousands of pounds of waste from landfills. The center collects light bulbs, pen, markers, cardboard, electronics, batteries, ink, toner and plastics.

Koo Family Plaza at Huntsman Hall

14. Koo Family Plaza at Huntsman Hall

Just outside of Wharton’s Hunstman Hall is a leafy green plaza—which is just perfect for taking a study break. Along with its aesthetic characteristics, the plaza has a green roof overhead which helps to reduce stormwater and increase biodiversity.

Wynn Commons

15. Wynn Commons

Popular for its outdoor concerts and seemingly endless seating, Wynn Commons is a favorite outdoor space for Penn students. Along the Commons and throughout campus, you can find dozens of trees with identifying plaques and information.

Highline Green

16. Highline Green

Built in 2003, Highline Green is a small field within Penn Park designed to provide open space for the Penn community. It is located on Chestnut Street and is commonly used for organized recreation and club sports.
Photo by Rhreyans Bhansali

Hamilton Village Green

17. Hamilton Village Green

Another open space with trees for shade and lush lawns for recreation, Hamilton Village Green is located next to Locust Walk and student housing and can be reserved for activities by Penn students and staff.

Edward Kane Park

18. Edward Kane Park

Penn alumnus Edward Kane longed to return green space to the area next to Penn Museum that was turned into a parking lot in the 1950’s. A gift from Kane and his wife allowed Penn to transform the lot into a beautiful space for visitors with trees, shrubs, grass, flowers, ground cover and ample seating.

The Music Building

19. The Music Building

Renovated in 2010, the Music Building exceeded its goal to meet LEED Silver requirements and was certified LEED Gold. The building features boast efficient lighting, passive storm water management techniques, sustainable interior furnishings and more.

Kings Court English College House

20. Kings Court English College House

Green roofs, or living landscapes, can be found on several building throughout campus, including this College House. The redesign of their rooftop features environmentally-friendly construction, making the building green from "top to bottom."

20 Employers Where MES Alumni Have Landed

 20 Employers Where MES Alumni Have Landed

From research and design, to education and community outreach, the opportunities in the environmental field continue to grow. Take a look at just some of the major employers of MES alumni in the region and around the globe.

The Nature Conservancy

1. The Nature Conservancy - Arlington, VA

The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest global conservation organizations. They work across all 50 states and in more than 35 countries to protect lands, waters and all natural life.

FMC Corporation

2. FMC Corporation - Philadelphia, PA

Since 1883, FMC has been using advanced technologies in manufacturing, research and development for the agriculture, health, nutrition and chemical fields. In all of FMC’s work, promoting environmental stewardship and sustainability are core modes of operation.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

3. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Washington, D.C.

The EPA is a federal agency that was established by our government to help protect human and environmental health by enforcing national standards across industries.

Tesla Motors

4. Tesla Motors - Palo Alto, CA

Tesla Motors is an independent automaker that designs, manufactures and sells 100% electric and battery-powered vehicles. Tesla cars can travel hundreds of miles on one full charge and owners never use a drop of gasoline.


5. TerraCycle - Trenton, NJ

TerraCycle is an international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle items for free and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

6. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service - Washington, D.C.

The USDA Forest Service manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Their experts provide assistance to state and local government agencies, businesses and private landowners.

Chester Ridley Crum (CRC) Watersheds Association

7. Chester Ridley Crum (CRC) Watersheds Association - Newtown Square, PA

The CRC Watersheds Association is a non-profit that is devoted to the protection of the water resources of the Chester, Ridley and Crum Creek Valleys in the Chester and Delaware Counties of Pennsylvania. The CRC covers 132 square miles and 40 municipalities, from the South Valley Hills to the Delaware River.

PIKA International

8. PIKA International - Stafford, TX

PIKA International is a leader in the technology and management of environmental remediation, construction, munitions, hazardous and toxic waste handling, as well as radiological services.


9. USAID - Washington, D.C.

As the leading US government agency working toward ending extreme poverty worldwide, USAID provides assistance to foreign nations in trade, health initiatives, environmental sustainability, disaster recovery and much more.

Natural Lands Trust

10. Natural Lands Trust - Media, PA

Based in Philadelphia suburbs, the National Lands Trust is the region’s leading oldest and largest land conservation organization. They own and manage natural preserves and help land owners steward their resources.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries

11. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries - Silver Spring, MD

The NOAA Fisheries protect and conserve our nation’s ocean resources and habitats by maintaining sustainable fisheries, providing safe sources of seafood, assisting the recovery of protected resources and promoting healthy ecosystems.

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

12. The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education - Philadelphia, PA

One of the first centers for urban environmental education, The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education uses a hands-on approach to encouraging citizens to have meaningful and impactful relationship to the natural world—through art projects, wildlife rehabilitation and outdoor classes.

General Electric Power

13. General Electric Power - Fairfield, CT

General Electric is one of the largest industrial manufacturers in the world. Its Energy branch has been investing in renewable resources by widely expanding the use of wind turbines as well as water treatment and processing. GE also develops and researches innovative nuclear energy uses.

Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC)

14. Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) - New England

The coasts of New England are protected by the NROC, a collaboration between state representatives, federal agencies and regional organizations. The group works together to identify and solve local and state ecosystem problems. Their work focuses on ocean and coastal ecosystem health, coastal hazards resilience and ocean planning.

Sustainable Green Initiative

15. Sustainable Green Initiative - Kolkata, India

The founders of Sustainable Green Initiative are working to eliminate greenhouse gases and improve climate change by planting one billion trees in India with special attention paid to urban areas. Since 2012, the organization has planted 25,000 trees in Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru and Gurgaon.

National Park Service (NPS)

16. National Park Service (NPS) - Washington, D.C.

Under the care of park rangers and volunteers, America’s 400 national parks are protected by the National Park Service. From the great outdoors of Yellowstone to the battlefields of Gettysburg, the NPS ensures our country’s historic landmarks and most treasured landscapes are preserved.


17. DuPont - Wilmington, DE

The global headquarters of the DuPont brand lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Among its corporate outreach programs is a commitment to sustainability. The company’s 2020 Sustainability Goals “integrate sustainability in [their] innovation process, further improve [their] operational footprint and continue [their] efforts to enhance global food security.”

Pew Charitable Trusts

18. Pew Charitable Trusts - Philadelphia, PA

Pew is a global research and public policy organization. The company is operated as a non-partisan, non-governmental organization dedicated to serving the public and supports major work and research in the environmental field.

Roux Associates

19. Roux Associates - Islandia, NY

Roux Associates provide environmental consulting and management for a wide range of clients including Target, Pfizer and Amtrak. They are known for their Engineered Natural Systems (ENS®) technologies which are employed in remediation, stormwater runoff and restoration projects.

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)

20. Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) - Philadelphia, PA

The DVRPC serves Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in PA; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer counties in NJ. It provides services to member governments and organizations in the areas of transportation, land use, environmental protection and economic development.

Student & Alumni Testimonials

  • Alison Fetterman

    Current MES student ’16-expected

    “Climate change is a big environmental issue right now. Penn is preparing us with a wide scope to look at it—we look at pollution, over-population and politics. Ten to 20 years in the future, I would imagine the biggest environmental shift will be what we did to change our climate.”

Inside Penn's Master of Environmental Studies

The heart of the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program at the University of Pennsylvania is the passion of our students and faculty to create change in the world. The MES curriculum provides an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment. Built with flexibility in mind, you can choose from a variety of concentrations or create your own path to suit your interests, experience and goals, all with the guidance of our world-class faculty. Built upon the foundation of Ivy League science courses, we provide a breadth of knowledge necessary to address complex issues in the environment, while also developing the depth of expertise required to become a successful environmental professional. Learn more about the MES:


Meet The MES Team

Undergraduate Programs

Yvette Bordeaux, PhD

Director, Professional Masters Programs in Earth & Environmental Science

Yvette received her BS in Biology-Geology from the University of Rochester and her MS and PhD in Geology from the University of Pennsylvania. She was the Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs in Earth & Environmental Science at Penn from 1998-2008 and has been Director of the Professional Masters Programs since 2007. When she’s not guiding her students through their capstones and winning the Provost’s Award for exceptional teaching, Yvette studies marine organisms that live on the shells of other organisms known as epibionts.

Sally Cardy

Sally Cardy

Administrative Director, Professional Masters Programs in Earth & Environmental Science

Sally joined the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) in October 2006. She joined the Earth & Environmental Science team in January of 2015 as the Administrative Director of the Master of Environmental Studies and the Master of Science in Applied Geosciences. Sally has a master’s degree in project management and is a working mother of one son and two stepdaughters. She likes to visit her family back in England and continues to try to convince her American counterparts to put the “u” back in color.

Heather Kostick

Heather Kostick

Administrative Assistant, Professional Masters Programs in Earth & Environmental Science

Heather is a native Philadelphian who graduated from Juniata College in 2012 with a BS in Wildlife Conservation. Heather is currently a student of the MES program and is pursuing an individualized concentration. Her research interests include avian ecology and conservation, agro-ecology and resource management. She volunteers as an assistant bird bander in her spare time at the Willistown Conservation Trust and became a certified Bander through the North American Banding Council in November, 2015.

Connect With Us

Master of Environmental Studies Program

240 S. 33rd Street 269
Hayden Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316

Telephone: (215) 898-6336
Fax: (215) 898-0964

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