Our Green Stories

From participating in local "green" challenges to keeping used and unwanted furniture out of landfills, we're working to "reduce, reuse and recycle." Read stories about how we are working with community organizations to curb our overall impact on the environment.

Highmark earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Energy Star certification

DECEMBER 2016 — Highmark earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ENERGY STAR certification for its corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh. This facility joins the already- certified West Virginia headquarters in Parkersburg and Center Street facility in Camp Hill, bringing the total ENERGY STAR certified square footage of owned property to 82 percent. This award signifies that each building performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide, meeting strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA.

Energy star

Commercial buildings that earn EPA's ENERGY STAR certification use an average of 35 percent less energy and also release 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than similar buildings across the country.

Highmark's corporate headquarters, a 787,600-square-foot building located at 120 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, has been undergoing renovations to optimize energy efficiency. Upgrades to more energy-efficient HVAC equipment and conversion to LED lighting with motion detection and daylight controls contribute to the building's continual improvement in energy performance.


Highmark earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Energy Star certification

JUNE 2016 — Highmark earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ENERGY STAR certification for its West Virginia headquarters in Parkersburg and recertification for its building on Center Street in Camp Hill. This award signifies that each building performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide, meeting strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA.

Energy star

"Highmark West Virginia is pleased to accept the EPA's ENERGY STAR certification in recognition of our energy efficiency efforts," said Highmark West Virginia President Fred Earley. "Through this achievement, we have demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship while also lowering our energy costs."

"I'd also like to specially thank Donnie Miller, supervisor, facilities management, Highmark West Virginia, for his outstanding effort and dedication, which was instrumental in helping Highmark West Virginia to achieve the certification," Earley added.

"To earn the ENERGY STAR, we improved our energy performance by making cost-effective alterations to our building, including the replacement of older lighting technology with LED fixtures and bulbs; implementation of a more efficient heating and air conditioning schedule; installation of motion detection lighting; and the completion of a detailed energy audit to uncover and apply new methods of energy conservation," Miller said.

Commercial buildings that earn EPA's ENERGY STAR certification use an average of 35 percent less energy and also release 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than similar buildings across the country.

Highmark's Center Street building first earned ENERGY STAR certificationin 2012. The 612,000-square-foot building, located at 1800 Center Street in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, was renovated in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards to include features similar to the West Virginia headquarters — energy efficient HVAC systems, motion-detector lighting, and power usage reduction software.

Highmark is chosen as winner of the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge in the large business category

DECEMBER 2015 — Highmark is doing its part to make it easy for employees to be healthier while promoting environmental stewardship.

Pittsburgh Green Workplace challenge

On Dec. 2, Sustainable Pittsburgh announced the top performers of the 2014-2015 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC), a yearlong, friendly competition for businesses, nonprofits, municipalities and universities to track and measure improvements in energy, water, waste and transportation.

For the first time, Highmark won the large business category, finishing ahead of major local Fortune 500 companies. Our success was built upon past initiatives taken as well as those undertaken in the current year.

Our environmental stewardship reflects our strong commitment to the health of community members. The GWC supports our commitment, providing the opportunity to track our progress in important areas of resource conservation and engage in spirited competition with peer organizations. The GWC confirmed that every action counts and that it takes more than one person or one organization to tackle the issues associated with climate and the environment.

Energy conservation efforts at our corporate headquarters helped us finish with a strong lead, reducing energy usage by 9 percent during the 12 month period of the competition. We replaced more than 5,000 fluorescent light fixtures with LEDs and added controls in the office tower and parking garage.

Some of the initiatives we undertook this past year contribute to building healthy communities and employees such as support of the new Healthy Ride Pittsburgh bike share together with Allegheny Health Network, installation of secure bike parking in the Fifth Avenue Place parking garage, sponsorships of Open Streets Pittsburgh and Pedal Pittsburgh and recognition by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Business.

The competition resulted in total energy savings of 18.6 million kWh, translating to $1.5 million in cost. The amount of energy saved can power an average of 1,541 U.S. homes for one year.

Sustainable Pittsburgh's mission is to affect decision-making for the Pittsburgh region to integrate economic prosperity, social equity and environmental quality bringing sustainable solutions for communities and businesses.

Highmark Celebrates Being a Bicycle Friendly Business

Bicycle Friendly Business
Bicycle Friendly Business

AUGUST 2015 — Highmark is doing its part to make it easy for employees to combine health and exercise with their daily commute to work while supporting a more environmentally friendly transportation option.

Earlier this year, the Highmark headquarters in Pittsburgh added 36 new space-efficient vertical bike racks in the building's parking garage. This installation triples the amount of available bike parking in the garage. These new racks will help accommodate Highmark's ever growing biking community. In addition, publicly-accessible bike parking spots are available around the Highmark headquarters.

Encouragement and engineering improvements like these examples helped Highmark's Pittsburgh location become recertified as a silver level Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists in May.

Highmark West Virginia headquarters in Parkersburg also earned a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Business certification more recently for providing infrastructure, resources and opportunity for cyclists. In addition to a bike rack available for employee and public use, employees at Highmark West Virginia have access to amenities such as on-site locker rooms with showers; maintenance supplies, including tools, pumps and tubes; and fitness centers with indoor biking equipment and cycling classes to encourage their use of bikes for transportation. Every year, the Parkersburg location also celebrates Bike-to-Work Day with a community bike ride and breakfast.

Not only is bicycling fun and a low-cost commuting alternative, but it's good for your health. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests logging at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week, and biking is a great low impact way to do so. Biking can improve cardiovascular and respiratory function, mental health and sleep quality. It can also prevent and improve chronic conditions.

Highmark achieves gold certification in LEED for commercial interiors

JULY 2014 — Highmark recently earned LEED certification with existing facilities as renovations were made to the 24th floor of Fifth Avenue Place, Highmark's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The renovation project involved the complete demolition of the space including the ceiling, walls, lighting, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) and flooring.

Highmark Headquarters Pittsburgh 24th Floor

Highmark began scoring points toward LEED certification with a demolition recovery rate (recycled or repurposed) of at least 75 percent of the original materials. By the end of the project, 95 percent of the total project construction waste was recycled.

With the opportunity to 'start from scratch,' Highmark was able to incorporate the most current technologies and materials, which are far more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than the construction materials and structure of the 1980s.

Some of the project features that created facility efficiencies and helped Highmark achieve LEED for Commercial Interiors Gold level certification include:

  • Lighting: Energy-saving LED lighting, which replaced fluorescent lighting, is 45 percent more efficient and reduced the number of lighting fixtures by 20 percent. The new lighting provides a better distributed light, which dims based on available daylight and includes occupancy sensors.
  • Water: Water efficiency was improved to use fewer gallons per minute. Toilets and urinals both use less water per flush. Efficient fixtures helped achieve a 35 percent reduction in water use.
  • Kitchen equipment: Ninety-five percent of new equipment is Energy Star rated.
  • Healthy materials: All adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring systems and furniture contain no or low VOCs (volatile organic compounds,) thereby eliminating off-gassing of new material. These product choices improve indoor air quality.
  • Regional materials: Thirty percent of building materials and furniture were manufactured within the region.
  • Recycled materials: Twenty-five percent of building materials, such as the bathroom stalls, used in this project are composed of recycled content.
  • HVAC: The old system was pneumatic, ran on compressed air, and had to be manually adjusted every time the temperature needed raised or lowered. The new system is wireless, with automated temperature controls, which will allow temperature to be managed remotely via a laptop in the building engineer's office.
  • Flood prevention: Sinks have moisture sensors with an automatic shut-off to eliminate damage to the floor and below in the event of a leak.

In the green building industry, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification recognizes best-in-class building strategies to lower costs, increase value and conserve resources. In the past 10 years, Highmark has achieved LEED certification in the new construction arena with the building of a data center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and offices in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In addition to the benefits of conserving utilities (like electricity and water), green housekeeping and selection of building materials, LEED can increase market value and promote the company's green building leadership. These new efficiencies and technologies are helping to set the new standard for buildings at Highmark.

Highmark earns distinguished leader-level status for sustainability efforts

DECEMBER 2013 — Highmark recently became the first business in the Pittsburgh region to achieve the Leader level within the Southwest Pennsylvania Sustainable Business Compact, an initiative of Sustainable Pittsburgh's Champions for Sustainability business network.

Southwest Pennsylvania Sustainable Business Compact Logo

This Leader level goes beyond the Challenger base level, demonstrating Highmark's status as an emerging sustainability pacesetter. Highmark joins four Challenger level businesses participating in the Compact, which provides a way for regional businesses to grow, build and demonstrate their sustainability commitments and practices.

Sustainability refers to a comprehensive set of activities to improve the long-term viability of a community including environmental aspects, community support, quality job growth, ethical and transparent business practices, sustainable supply network management and diversity practices, to name a few. Highmark has demonstrated that we meet this high-set bar in terms of leadership, collaboration and credibility.

For achieving this status, Phyllis Barber, Highmark's sustainability director, accepted, on behalf of Highmark, a 10-inch certification seal made of 100% post-consumer recycled bronze made locally by Mathews Corporation.

"We pursued certification in the Sustainable Business Compact to measure our sustainability progress from a regional perspective. Highmark is proud to achieve the leader level in the Compact because it allows us to demonstrate our commitment to fostering a positive social and environmental impact in the community," Barber said.

Highmark serves as founding partner of Pittsburgh 2030 District

JULY 2013 — Sustainability remains one of our company's main concerns. So when the company was presented with the opportunity to serve as a founding partner of a new community initiative in Pittsburgh, it was a perfect fit. That new initiative, which was introduced in the summer of 2012 and is a strategic program of Green Building Alliance, is the Pittsburgh 2030 District.

Pittsburgh 2030 District Logo

This collaboration of local, high-performance buildings in downtown Pittsburgh has a goal of reducing as much as 50 percent of the city's energy and water consumption as well as reducing emissions from transportation and improving indoor air quality by 2030. Nationally recognized for its energy conservation efforts, the organization also strives to increase competitiveness in the business environment and building owners' returns on investments.

Some of its member organizations include Alcoa, BNY Mellon, the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pirates, among others.

"It is important to work together with other regional organizations, both private industry and not for profit, for the improvement of our region," Phyllis Barber, Highmark's sustainability coordinator said.

For more information, visit the Pittsburgh 2030 District project website.

Highmark participates in Pittsburgh's tree planting efforts to net economic and environmental savings

JUNE 2012 — Highmark worked with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the City of Pittsburgh, TreeVitalize Pittsburgh and several environmental and design groups to plant trees at its Fifth Avenue Place headquarters in Pittsburgh.

"Highmark wanted to be a participant in the City of Pittsburgh's tree planting efforts," Phyllis Barber, Highmark's sustainability coordinator, said. "The project has already saved $2.4 million for city residents. Highmark's participation increases that savings even more."

Fifth Avenue Place building

For every $1.00 spent on its municipal forestry program, Pittsburgh will reap $2.94 in benefits. Of the more than $2.4 million in savings achieved by the City of Pittsburgh project thus far,* $1,205,133 was saved in energy costs, $252,935 was saved in air quality costs and $334,601 was saved in storm water costs. In addition, $572,882 can be attributed to an increase in property values.

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh's initial goal is to plant 20,000 trees in the Pittsburgh region. The project is a joint effort of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Tree Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Seven Princeton American elms, six Ginkgo trees and six Frans Fontiane Hornbeams were planted. The trees were grown locally and selected by TreeVitalize Pittsburgh for their pest and disease resistance, color and variety.

Thanks to a grant from the Colcom Foundation, a charitable organization that awards grants for projects that concern quality of life, Highmark was able to obtain the funds to utilize Deeproot Silva Cells, an integrated tree, soil and storm water system.

"Typically urban tree growth is stunted by limited access to soil and poor soil quality. Soil is critical to the long-term sustainability of the trees," Paul Long, director of facilities management western region at Highmark, said. "It provides the basis for healthy vegetation, treats storm water as a resource, and restores ecosystem services.

"The Silva Cell system is like a modular building block that contains large amounts of healthy soil beneath the pavement while supporting traffic loads and accommodating surrounding utilities. It provides more room for root growth and storm water retention. 

View a slideshow of workers installing the Silva Cell system.

"When tree roots don't have enough room to grow under the sidewalk," Long added, "they can cause walks to buckle and create a dangerous situation for pedestrians."

*Source: Tree Pittsburgh (formerly Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest), 2005, based on USDA Forest Service STRATUM software.

Highmark collaborates with Global Links to keep used and unwanted office furniture out of landfills

JANUARY 2012 — Highmark's Facility Management department recently donated used office furniture to Global Links, a Pittsburgh-based medical relief and development organization. Global Links works with companies and hospitals in the southwestern Pennsylvania region to provide a socially and environmentally beneficial alternative to disposing of unwanted materials. Usable items such as tables, chairs, and workstations are donated to resource-poor communities in Latin America and the Caribbean instead of going to landfills.

Group of people donating

Over the second half of 2011, Highmark donated 109 assorted office chairs, 8 long narrow tables from the Penn Avenue auditorium, 4 small meeting tables, 8 medium tables and 40 workstations. Highmark kept a total of 8,890 pounds of materials out of landfills.

In 2012 so far, we have donated six additional tables no longer needed at the Penn Avenue Place auditorium and five gently used refrigerators.

Hospitals and health centers in countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Bolivia often don't have seating in patient rooms or waiting areas or workstations for employees. But with donations from companies like Highmark, patients and their families have places to sit and employees have places to do their work. See a 'before' photo and an 'after' photo.

In addition to utilizing non-standard furniture from companies like Highmark, Global Links kept 25 tons of home medical equipment from the local community in the past 2 years (crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.) If you would like more information about this collection program, please visit