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Elon sees dip in greenhouse gas emissions

Elon University produced fewer greenhouse gas emissions between June 1, 2008, and May 31, 2009, compared to the previous fiscal year. The emissions reduction is the primary finding released this month in the second annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory.

Greenhouse gases were 3.72 percent lower in the most recent inventory in large part due to a decrease in energy consumption on campus.

“I think there’s a greater awareness of energy conservation on campus,” said Elaine Durr, the university’s sustainability coordinator. “We’ve also done things to make buildings more energy efficient. I was pleased to see the reduction, to know that the efforts we’ve put in place are effective at promoting better energy use.

Conducting a yearly emissions inventory is essential to monitor progress toward Elon’s ultimate goal of carbon neutrality set forth in the Sustainability Master Plan, Durr said.

The Office of Sustainability completed the second annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory with the assistance of a student intern. The process involved collecting data from numerous departments, ranging from the Physical Plant for electricity and natural gas consumption to Human Resources for the number of employees. Many departments and individuals on campus contributed information needed to complete the inventory.

Energy consumption is the largest source of Elon’s greenhouse emissions, accounting for 55.8 percent of total emissions in the most recent inventory. Transportation ranked second on the list with 40.9 percent of emissions. Transportation included study abroad travel, commuter travel, fuel use in the university fleet, faculty and staff business travel, and athletic team travel. 

Commuter Travel accounts for 14.9 percent of Elon’s most recent fiscal year emissions. Based on results from a commuter habit survey, 69 percent of students commute by car at least once a week, 35 percent carpool about 2 days a week, 20 percent commute by bus at least once a week and 71 percent bike or walk to campus several times a week. 

Faculty and staff commuted approximately 7.8 million miles in fiscal year 2009 based on minimal bus use, and 96 percent of faculty and 95 percent of staff commute by car at least once a week. Fourteen percent of faculty and 10 percent of staff carpool to campus about three days a week.

Elon’s greenhouse gas inventories are serving as a guide to and informing the development of Elon’s in-progress Climate Action Plan. The plan will be a roadmap for carrying out projects designed to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions.

The CAP will include an assessment of potential strategies to reduce emissions and interim emission reduction targets. The plan will be a living, flexible document that may change as technology and research develops.

Eric Townsend,
2/15/2010 4:53 PM