April 24, 2009

Vanderbilt calculates first carbon footprint

Vanderbilt calculates first carbon footprint

Organized by the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office, the carbon footprint estimates the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by Vanderbilt, which can trap heat and cause climate change.

The study found that VU's average yearly greenhouse gas emission is 487,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Academic and research areas accounted for 62 percent of this yearly average and patient care areas accounted for 38 percent.

Only a very small portion of universities nationwide have completed greenhouse gas inventory reports and made them publicly available.

Additionally, most university greenhouse gas inventory reports do not include research and/or patient care activity, making Vanderbilt’s report more comprehensive than most. 

While reports exist for a small number of Vanderbilt’s peer institutions, drawing comparisons between universities is difficult. Each school has its own defining characteristics and mix of variables even within the shared, primary emissions attributes.

Purchased electricity, coal and natural gas use at the on-campus cogeneration power plant, and faculty and staff commuting accounted for 96 percent of the annual average greenhouse gas emissions.

Thus, reducing energy usage and supporting commuter choice programs have the most potential to reduce VU's carbon footprint.

The physical boundary for the carbon footprint includes the core 323 acres of Vanderbilt University property and encompasses academic, residential, research, and patient care buildings.

Off-site buildings, such as medical clinics and Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks, are not included in this inventory.

The environmental commitment statement is the result of input by numerous VU faculty, staff and students and has the support of the VU Faculty Senate, Vanderbilt Student Government, Environmental Advisory Committee, University Staff Advisory Council and Medical Center Staff Advisory Council.

For more information, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/sustainvu.

In conjunction with the release of its carbon footprint, Vanderbilt has also issued an Environmental Commitment Statement, which reads:

Vanderbilt University is a local and global community leader committed to environmental stewardship, protecting natural resources, and enhancing quality of life while maintaining academic, medical, social and economic productivity. Through proactive education, research and outreach, we strive to:

• Develop and transfer knowledge, increase awareness, and promote lifelong learning about sustainability best practices for the benefit of stakeholders who comprise the Vanderbilt community (students, patients, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors), as well as the broader Nashville, state, national, and global communities;

• Achieve the highest standards of sustainability through a process of environmental responsibility and accountability at every level of University activity; and

• Consistently implement, monitor, evaluate and improve our process.