Results of UD's carbon footprint study unveiled
John Byrne presents the results of the carbon footprint study.
John Byrne
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1:18 p.m., Nov. 19, 2008----The results of a six-month study that measured the sources of carbon dioxide released on the University of Delaware's Newark campus were presented during a town hall meeting, held Tuesday evening, Nov. 18, in Mitchell Hall. Proposals for methods of curbing the emissions fueled a lively discussion.

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Led by John Byrne, director of the University's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy and recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the carbon inventory study by the Carbon Footprint Initiative was funded by the Senior Class Gift of 2008. The study calculated the University's carbon emissions for waste, dining, transportation, landscaping and buildings.

The study revealed that the top contributors to the carbon footprint on UD's Newark campus are buildings and transportation, which account for 78.1 percent and 21.5 percent of carbon emissions, respectively.

“All of these things represent opportunities for us to reduce emissions,” Byrne said. “We need to take steps to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

According to the emissions study, the chief contributors to the total emissions of 154,207 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, include:

Building emissions of 120,450 metric tons (78.1 percent);

Transportation emissions of 33,188 metric tons (21.5 percent); and

Waste, landscaping and food services, accounting for 568 metric tons (0.4 percent).

Contributing to the carbon emissions from buildings on campus were electricity (70 percent) and natural gas (29 percent), which are used to power, heat and cool residence halls, classrooms, laboratories and other buildings, such as the Roselle Center for the Arts, the Trabant University Center and the Perkins Student Center, Byrne said.

“Laboratories are energy intensive, and we need to see if there are ways we can improve on this,” Byrne said. “We also need to develop a multidimensional strategy for how we use energy generated by the six power plants on campus that heat and cool our buildings.”

While campus structures constitute the largest source of carbon emissions on campus, they also can serve as a framework to take advantage of renewable sources such as solar energy, Bryne said.

“We are collecting renewable energy on our buildings all the time,” Byrne said. “The problem is that we just don't use it.”

Transportation emissions included student, faculty and staff commuting, the UD fleet of buses, services and departmental vehicles and trips taken home by students living on campus, according to the study.

The sources of transportation emissions, including gasoline and diesel usage, are 86 percent for commuting, 8 percent from the UD fleet and 6 percent from trips home by campus residents.

“We are really going to have to concentrate on commuting, including changing our transport system,” Byrne said. “If this is going to work, we need to find ways for individuals to arrive and leave campus in ways other than carbon-using vehicles.”

Seeking solutions

Byrne said the two paths open to both the University and the United States as a whole include a business-as-usual approach or a program of developing and implementing timely and workable solutions.

“Assuming no actions are taken, we can expect to see an increase of emissions of 15 percent by 2020, based on the assumption that the student population will increase by 1,000 in 2020 compared to 2008 figures,” Byrne said. “We have to find a way to get individuals to take action.”

One solution, generated by a question from the audience, was to spread out class times to include Fridays and evening hours, as opposed to adding more classroom spaces.

“Students prefer no classes until after 11 a.m., and none after six at night, and no classes at all on Fridays,” Byrne said. “If we made a commitment to start classes early and also hold them on Fridays, this could help in not having to bring a new building on line.”

Byrne said the UD community should continue the commitment to become carbon neutral as reflected in the sustainability agreements signed by President Patrick Harker with the American College and University Climate Commitment and the Talloires Declaration by the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future.

“We have to find a way to get the word out and get more people involved,” Byrne said. “We need to take steps to be part of the solution.”

The presentation was webcast live and is available as a podcast by clicking here.

For more information, visit [www.udel.edu/footprint].

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Kevin Quinlan

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