ORVALLIS, Ore. – How much carbon does Oregon State University cause to be released into the atmosphere each year?
For those Beavers concerned with sustainability and the environment, that’s a key question. To find the answer, the university’s Sustainability Office recently completed a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for the 2007 fiscal year.
The inventory shows that OSU’s total emissions increased 9.4 percent since a similar survey was done in 2004, for a total of 151,287 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Purchased electricity was the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 61 percent.
The inventory counted emissions resulting from electricity use and steam production, student and employee commuting, air travel, solid waste and several other sources. It is the most comprehensive emissions tally OSU has ever undertaken, according to Greg Smith, one of two authors of the inventory report and program assistant in the Sustainability Office.
Measurement of carbon emissions helps to understand the impact that the university’s actions are having on greenhouse gas buildup and thus OSU’s contribution to global warming. OSU is among a small group of colleges and universities around the nation that have undertaken a comprehensive inventory – fewer than 40 at last count.
But with some 558 campuses now having pledged to work toward carbon neutrality as part of a national compact on sustainability -- the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, signed by OSU President Ed Ray last year -- many more carbon assessments are expected to follow. OSU sustainability leaders say the university is taking its leadership role seriously.
“The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is fine-tuning greenhouse gas reporting rules that will likely take effect in 2009,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s Sustainability Coordinator. “This inventory meets and exceeds the reporting requirements DEQ is currently considering.”
In spring 2007, OSU students voted to approve an $8.50 per student, per term green energy fee following an Associated Students of OSU campaign. Funds raised by the fee purchase renewable energy -- primarily wind, biogas and biomass. The current amount of renewable energy purchased equals about 75 percent of total campus electrical consumption.
Largely on the basis of the green energy fee, OSU was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year as one of the nation’s top five higher education users of “green power,” as well as best in the Pac 10.
OSU’s carbon footprint ought to decrease sharply this year because the 2008 inventory will reflect the impact of the green energy fee for the first time, said Trelstad.
Conservation, said Trelstad, is the primary strategy OSU administration is taking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “Through conservation, we not only use financial and natural resources better, we also lower how much offsite renewable energy we need to purchase to ultimately become climate neutral.”
The Sustainability Office will inventory OSU’s emissions annually.
About Sustainability at OSU: Oregon State University is a campus leader in sustainability through initiatives ranging from its Student Sustainability Center to an electronic carpool system to internationally recognized research in development of green power sources, such as wave energy. Learn more at http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/.