Taking Stock — Calculating Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions
We know what our carbon footprint is? Do you? We are responsible for approximately 3,326 metric tons of CO2e each year. CO2e is a common measure of the impact that all anthropogenic greenhouse gases have, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and others.
The first task toward achieving climate neutrality is to know your baseline, your footprint. We began estimating our footprint in 2007 with a greenhouse gas inventory, and made a plan to continue inventorying our footprint every two years afterwards. This plan is consistent with the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.
The first inventory was carried out In 2007 by the Campus Sustainability Council, chaired by energy economics expert professor Steve Letendre. Using this data, the Sustainability Council and students enrolled in Dr. Letendre’s classes began sketching the contours of a roadmap that would lead GMC to climate neutrality. Every two years since 2007, the College’s sustainability office has taken stock of its carbon emissions and seen the positive result of sustainability improvements by a lowering in the footprint.
By 2011, the College achieved nearly a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as reflected in the inventory. This afforded the College the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets to covering the remaining emissions. Green Mountain College became only the second college in the country to achieve the feat, and the first to do it through a comprehensive approach that included substantial efficiency projects and the construction of a $5.8 million biomass plant.
Students, staff, and faculty continue to improve campus, and these improvements continue to lower the greenhouse gas footprint. Since achieving neutrality in 2011, the College has reduced its footprint by another 11% over the 2007 baseline.
The College has now completed five greenhouse gas emissions inventories using the Clean-Air Cool Planet Campus Carbon Calculator, the most recent of which is FY 2015. Since 2007, the College has reduced its actual emissions by about 41 percent, before offsets are counted. Emissions continue to fall as students, staff, and faculty find creative ways to heat buildings more efficiently, divert waste, and use more sustainable transportation options. Meanwhile, the College continues to inform its work on climate neutrality by rigorous data collection through the sustainability office and various classes.
Green Mountain College is committed to accounting for as much carbon as it can measure. Thus, GMC’s climate neutrality goal includes neutralizing Scope 3 Emissions as well as Scope’s 1 & 2. The College measures its impact from commuting, institution-sponsored travel and solid waste. These areas comprise 36% of campus emissions—some of the most difficult to reduce and replace quickly. Thus, GMC is offsetting these emissions while it puts measures in place for long-term reductions.