Monday, March 24, 2008

Unity 3rd or 4th, could be 1st in nation: Preliminary results of a nationwide college and university carbon emissions survey

Luba Zhaurova is a graduate student at Tufts University who is currently working on a study of college and university carbon emissions. This is interesting to me because I've long felt that we had exemplarily frugal use of space and fuel per student, and so were very likely to be the most energy-efficient college in the country.

Luba's results put us third or fourth, behind colleges located in much more temperate climes. I want to find out if Luba subtracted our student/staff drive to work emissions estimate, which is part of our annual emissions report, and which I doubt these other colleges report. In which case, we could be first. I'm waiting to find out if this is so, and how many others were included in the survey.

Of course, it doesn't mean very much to be top of this list, if there are still emissions that we could easily save, and there are. the first meeting of the newly reconstituted Sustainability Policy Committee is this Friday, and I'm looking forward to getting to grips with the problem again. We've been waiting for this Master Plan for far too long, and there is work we could do that would easily get our emissions down another 25-25 percent. Our goal is eventually to be carbon neutral.


-----Original Message-----
From: Luba Zhaurova []
Sent: Sun 3/23/2008 6:48 PM
To: Mick Womersley
Subject: Re: Question about square footage

Hi Mick,

Thanks for sharing your post with me. You totally sold me on Unity. I
wish I went there as an undergraduate, instead of Boston University.
Even though I studied Ecology and Conservation Biology there, the
school has no focus on sustainability. I am happy at Tufts now

I checked preliminary results for total emissions/FTE (full time
student equivalent) - and it seems Unity is 4th in place - topped by 3
University of Oregon schools - Eastern Oregon University, Western
Oregon University and Southern Oregon University. And you are the 3rd
in terms of emissions/SF - topped by Eastern Oregon University and
University of Washington - Tacoma Campus.

But as you said - there are a lot of other factors that can contribute
to schools' rating. I am just looking for trends. My preliminary
results have shown some correlation. I'll be doing more this week.

Have a good one!


Hi Luba:

Those results make sense to me. All those other colleges are located in areas where there are far fewer heating degree days in winter, and far fewer cooling degree days in summer. In general, the closer the outside temperature is to a temperate 50-70 degrees, the range in which you can control building temperature by ventilation, the less electricity or heat fuel should be used, all other things being equal. By the way, our emissions data include an estimate of student-staff drive to work emissions, and so if these other colleges did not, we might reduce our numbers by that estimate, which amounts to about 500,000 lbs per year. You can find the line easily in our data sheet. Apples to apples.

I'm actually very happy with those results, although I have half a dozen energy conservation projects in mind, waiting for funding and planning work, and so we expect to continue to reduce our emissions. We have set ourselves a goal of reducing emissions by a minimum 5% of 2001 levels each year until carbon neutral. We did some work on one building alone last summer which we expect to result in 5 or 10% less emissions this winter.

What is surprising about this work, and what I plan to tell the NACUBO listeners when I am part of a panel for a web conference on creating emissions accounts in a couple weeks, is that a surprisingly large amount of carbon can come from just ridiculously easy-to-fix things. I would think we could save about 10% of our annual carbon in the US just by better use of heating and cooling controls, like those 29 dollar computerized thermostats they sell in the hardware store.

It occurs to me that one response I should have had when corresponding with you about methodology should have been to suggest using the heating/cooling degree day as either an X or Y variable here, depending on the specific hypothesis. Degree days correct for external heat and cold, and so a measure of fuel oil or climate emissions per square foot, per year, per degree day, is a useful metric. I believe you can get average and actual records of degree days for many regions, or calculate them yourself from NWS records.

How many colleges and universities were you able to find data for?



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