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.”
Climate Action Plan
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:
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 2014 GHG emissions were 10.7% higher than FY 2008 emissions. This increase came primarily from an increase in energy consumption and directly financed travel. The increase in energy consumption is likely due to additional square footage, 669,680 square feet were added to campus between FY 2008 and FY 2014. An increase in faculty and staff business travel as well as athletic team travel is the main cause for the directly financed travel increase.
While overall emissions have increased, emissions per square foot decreased from FY 2008 to 2014, even though square footage increased 35%. The below graph depicts the 18% decrease in emissions per 1,000 square feet.
Emissions per student also decreased from FY 2008 to 2014, even though the number of FTE students increased 16%. The below graph illustrates the change in emissions per FTE student over time. Compared to FY 2008, in FY 2014 emissions per FTE student are down 4.6%.
Energy consumption is the largest source of Elon’s GHG emissions accounting for 53.9% of Elon’s emissions in FY 2014. The next largest source of emissions is Transportation with 39.3% of FY 2014 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 12.7% of Elon’s FY 2014 emissions. It is one of the more challenging categories for which to collect data. A combination of two strategies was used to gather information for this category. A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis was done using faculty and staff anonymous addresses to generate an average one-way travel distance of 13.9 miles for the Elon campus and 10.2 miles for the School of Law campus. The study showed that for both campuses, 45.2% of faculty and staff live within 5 miles and 57.0% 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 average number of trips to campus each week, trip distribution (% trips by mode) and the specific trip distance for each commuting mode. Based on the results: