E-Net News

Annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory completed

Energy consumption, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions at Elon University, accounted for 54 percent of total emissions.


Elon University’s greenhouse gas emissions remain lower compared to fiscal year 2008, the first year they were measured on campus, according to the fiscal year 2011 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory released this month.

Greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal year 2011 were 4.3 percent lower than in fiscal year 2008 in large part due to a decrease in energy consumption on campus. The majority of this reduction took place between fiscal year 2008 and 2009.

While overall emissions have decreased, emissions did increase about 1.3 percent between 2010 and 2011, primarily through an increase in faculty and staff business travel, and through more students studying abroad in Elon University programs in fiscal year 2011 than the previous year.

“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.

The Office of Sustainability completed the greenhouse gas emissions inventory with the assistance of a student intern. The process involved collecting data from numerous departments, ranging from the Physical Plant for electricity and natural gas consumption to Human Resources for the number of employees. Many departments and individuals on campus contributed information needed to complete the inventory.

A standard procedures document outlines the process and ensures consistent practices from year to year.

As new methodologies and data collection techniques emerge, they are reviewed and adopted when appropriate. Once adopted, a new methodology or technique is applied to the current and previous years to allow for year-to-year comparisons. One methodology was updated this year – the methodology for calculating air mileage from dollars spent on air travel.

Energy consumption is the largest source of Elon’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 54 percent of total emissions in the most recent inventory. Transportation ranked second on the list with 43 percent of emissions. 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 11 percent of Elon’s most recent fiscal year emissions. A commuter habit survey was conducted to determine any changes in commuting patterns from the previous survey conducted in 2008. Based on the results, commuting students are making fewer trips to campus in a week, are traveling a shorter distance and utilizing the Biobus more. Fifty percent carpool about three days a week.

Thirteen percent of faculty and staff carpool to campus. The percentage of staff carpooling to campus has increased based on survey results. Both groups are carpooling about three days a week.

“This most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory indicates progress toward the goal of carbon neutrality as identified in the Sustainability Master Plan and the near-term interim emission reduction targets identified in Elon’s Climate Action Plan,” Durr said.

The Climate Action Plan (CAP) 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, please visit the Climate page of the Sustainability website.

Eric Townsend,
11/15/2011 2:19 PM