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Annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory completed

Energy consumption is the largest source of Elon's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest inventory by the Office of Sustainability.


Greenhouse gas emissions at Elon remain lower than they were five years ago even as the university has added more buildings, employees and students, and campus sustainability leaders said they believe the trend is a result of educational programs and institutional commitments to energy efficiency, conservation and sustainable construction practices.

The university’s latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory has found that emissions are 4.2 percent lower compared to baseline readings in 2008. The decrease is in large part due to campus energy consumption.

“Conducting a yearly emissions inventory is essential to monitor progress toward Elon’s goal of carbon neutrality set forth in the Sustainability Master Plan,” said Elaine Durr, Elon’s director of sustainability.

Energy consumption is the largest source of Elon’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 57.3 percent of total emissions in the latest inventory. Transportation (35.4 percent of emissions) ranked second on the list. Transportation includes study abroad travel, commuter travel, fuel use in the university fleet, faculty and staff business travel and athletic team travel.

Commuter travel accounts for 10 percent of Elon’s emissions. Commuting students today are making fewer trips to campus and are traveling a shorter distance. A larger percentage of commuting students are utilizing the BioBus, with fewer trips per week, than they were two years ago. Forty-five percent of students who commute to campus say they carpool about three days a week.

About 10 percent of faculty and staff carpool to campus, a slight decrease from two years ago. The average roundtrip mileage for faculty and staff did not change substantially from the previous commuter survey conducted in 2010.

Though emissions remain lower today than they were in 2008, they aren’t as low as they have been. Emissions rose slightly between 2011 and 2012, an increase attributed primarily to directly financed travel and purchased electricity. An increase in faculty and staff business travel is the primary cause for the increase in directly financed travel, which could be the result of improved data collection and/or more actual travel.

Emissions from purchased electricity increased from fiscal year 2011 to 2012, likely the result of adding 115,006 square feet of building space to campus. “We're adding more efficient buildings, and we’re taking down inefficient ones,” Durr said. “What we’re building back in some cases is more square footage than what we took down, but it’s more efficient.”

The Office of Sustainability completed the greenhouse gas emissions inventory with the assistance of a student intern. The office collected data from numerous departments, ranging from the Physical Plant for electricity and natural gas consumption to the Office of Human Resources for information on university employment.

The Climate Action Plan was completed in spring 2010 and serves as a roadmap for carrying out projects designed to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is a living, flexible document that will be revised as technology, research and incentives develop.

To learn more about the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Climate Action Plan, visit the climate page of the Office of Sustainability website. To learn more about the greenhouse gas emissions summer internship opportunity, email sustainability@elon.edu.

Eric Townsend,
3/21/2013 8:21 AM