The overarching goal of Elon University’s Sustainability Master Plan completed in the spring of 2007 is “to minimize our impact on the global environment by establishing a carbon neutral university.” To guide this effort, the university completed a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in the spring of 2010. The strategies and goals outlined in the CAP will, by 2037, reduce emissions from what the university produced in its 2008 baseline year. Those reductions are expected even as the campus increases its building square footage through future projects.
The plan identifies emission reduction strategies and goals in four categories: energy, transportation, solid waste and other sources such as fertilizer application, refrigeration and wastewater. It also includes recommendations for incorporating sustainability and climate change into education, research and community outreach. The CAP is a flexible document that will be reviewed periodically and revised as appropriate to take new technologies, incentives and developments into consideration.
Greenhouse Gas Inventory
The university’s first greenhouse gas (GHG) or carbon footprint was calculated for FY 2008 and serves as the baseline from which to measure reductions. An inventory is conducted yearly to monitor progress toward the university’s carbon reduction goals. Elon’s FY 2012 GHG emissions were 4.2% lower than FY 2008 emissions.
While overall emissions have decreased, emissions did increase about 4.8% between 2011 and 2012. This increase came primarily from Directly Financed Travel and Purchased Electricity. An increase in faculty and staff business travel is the primary cause for the increase in Directly Financed Travel, which could be the result of improved data collection and/or more actual travel. Emissions from Purchased Electricity increased per the 1,771,670 kWh increase from FY 2011 to FY 2012. This increase in Purchased Electricity is likely the result of adding 115,006 square feet of building space.
Energy consumption is the largest source of Elon’s GHG emissions accounting for 57.3% of Elon’s emissions in FY 2012. The next largest source of emissions is Transportation with 35.4% of FY 2012 emissions. The Transportation category includes the following: Study Abroad Travel, Commuter Travel, Fuel Usage (University Fleet), Directly Financed Travel (faculty and staff business and athletic team travel).
Commuter Travel accounts for 10% of Elon’s FY 2012 emissions. It is one of the more challenging categories for which to collect data. A combination of two strategies was used to gather the needed information. A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis was done using faculty and staff anonymous addresses to generate an average one-way travel distance of 13.6 miles for the Elon campus and 8.6 miles for the School of Law campus. The study showed that for both campuses, 45.6% of faculty and staff live within 5 miles and 58.1% are within 10 miles. Click here for the resulting maps.
In addition, a commuter habit survey was created and distributed to faculty, staff and students. The results were used to determine the distance individuals travel, trip frequency and mode of transportation (car, bus, carpool, walk, bike). Eighty-two percent of commuting students commute by car at least once a week; 22% commute by bus about 5 times a week; and 45% carpool at least one day a week with an average of about 3 days. Biking or walking to campus is also common with 62% of commuting students doing so several times a week. Nearly all faculty and staff commute by car at least once a week, and 10% carpool at least one day a week with an average of about 3 days. Some faculty and staff bike or walk to campus at least once a week.
This was the third commuter habit survey that has been conducted. The first was done in 2008. Some of the changes revealed by the survey results are: