GV reduces carbon footprint despite university growth

Ellie Phillips

Grand Valley State University’s carbon footprint for the fiscal year of 2012 has been calculated this January, showing a reduction from 56,816 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCO2e) in the baseline year of 2006 to 54,139 MTCO2e. This change occurred despite considerable university growth in both students and built space. This reduction is a 4.7 percent decrease in the university’s carbon footprint and a 20.8 percent decrease on a square-footage basis.

GVSU’s carbon footprint is calculated every year by members of the Climate Action Council as part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which was signed by GVSU President Thomas Haas in 2007. The commitment includes building to LEED silver standards, purchasing Energy Star appliances for the university, participating in Recyclemania! and using the Rapid Bus System for students, staff and faculty.

The carbon footprint is a measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, and data is collected on three different scopes, or kinds of emissions. The first is energy that is produced, the second is energy that is purchased, and the last is the more subjectively calculated scope, which involves the estimation of emissions contributors like waste and commuting. Most of the goals for the university are based on scopes one and two.

“Scope 3 involves determining the breakdown of our commuters including how far they drove and how many trips per week they take,” said Bart Bartels, campus sustainability manager for GVSU. “Approximations used make this calculation less precise than the methodology of Scopes 1 and 2.”
GVSU started calculating its carbon footprint in 2006, as several sustainability projects were being initiated in 2007.

“There are many reasons for the drop in the greenhouse gas emissions, including energy conservation efforts, more efficient buildings and a winter that was 13 percent warmer than 2006,” Bartels said.

He added that another reason is the inclusion of Energy Star appliances in GVSU buildings, especially in living centers and dining halls.

“Energy Star appliances incorporate advanced technologies and use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard appliances,” Bartels said.

Additionally, the rate of water consumption per square foot has decreased by 22 percent compared to the rate calculated six years ago. This is significant as less consumption leads to less water in need of treatment, which in turn saves energy and money.
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