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University completes first greenhouse gas emissions report

October 6th, 2009

Without knowing where you are, you can’t know how to get where you want to be.

That is the simple philosophy behind the University of Louisville’s first greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report.

Before UofL can take steps to reduce GHG emissions and its contribution to global climate change, the university must have a baseline for comparison, said Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives.

The report follows President James Ramsey’s signing of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in Aug. 2008. At the signing, Ramsey pledged that UofL will lead by example and take steps to reduce its carbon footprint and move toward climate neutrality.

According to recent findings, UofL produced average net emissions of 197,506 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for fiscal years 2006 through 2008.

This number includes emissions that come from sources owned or controlled by the university, such as campus fuel consumption for heating and vehicles, and those produced off-site by Louisville Gas & Electric Co., on behalf of the university. The number also considers other indirect emissions generated off-site by faculty, staff and student commuter travel, business travel and waste transported to landfills.

The largest portion of UofL’s carbon footprint (58%) comes from emissions produced from purchased electricity generated from the burning of coal.

“While the university does not have direct control over how this electricity is produced, it is not powerless to create change,” Mog said, noting that there are several things the university can and will do to change that statistic. Among them are including implementing energy efficiency initiatives on Belknap Campus that are part of a performance contract with Siemens Corp.

“This fall Belknap campus will see work begin on massive energy conservation retrofits through a recently approved 12-year performance contract with Siemens Building Technologies,” he explained. “This project is predicted to lower UofL's $13.8 million utility bill by about 30 percent a year.”

Meanwhile, Mog said, faculty, staff and students on all three campuses have a vital role to play in reducing electricity usage every time they come to campus.

“Significant reductions can result from simple, day-to-day behavioral changes like remembering to turn off lights and equipment when vacating rooms or choosing to take the stairs instead of calling an elevator,” he said.

Further reductions can come from choices each of us make about what to plug in or turn on. It begins with careful decisions about what equipment is truly needed (e.g. a small refrigerator in every room or a large common refrigerator) and then purchasing only energy efficient appliances, electronics and computers, such as those with U.S. EPA Energy Star® certification, as required by UofL's Green Purchasing Policy.

“The choices we all make - big and small - add up to a significant impact on the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere,” Mog said. “We are all in this together and UofL has an important role to play in leading the way toward climate neutrality and a more sustainable tomorrow.”

Among other recommendations for reducing UofL’s greenhouse gas emissions that are included in the report are:

UofL will submit a Climate Action Plan by Sept. 15, 2010, that outlines a long-term strategy for how it can continue to minimize its greenhouse gas emissions and, ultimately, seek climate neutrality.

The report can be viewed online

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