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Report shows reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

Trends are the hottest thing at the moment and trending now is how carbon emissions from colleges and universities have declined 13 percent per square foot between 2007 and 2014.

The UNH Sustainability Institute collaborated with Sightlines, a company that “helps universities better manage their facilities investments,” according to its website, and produced The State of Sustainability in Higher Education, a report on energy usage from a total of 343 U.S. colleges and universities.

UNH has seen its carbon emissions considerably reduced compared to other schools, “38 percent per square foot since 2007 — than the national average,” cited in the report.

Also, cited was an “absolute decline in emissions was significantly smaller, with a 36 percent reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions,” at UNH.

“At UNH, two factors to cutting carbon emissions included the cogeneration plant and the EcoLine,” said Jennifer Andrews, project manager at the Sustainability Institute.

“Cogeneration is producing heat and power instead of just one thing, producing two things using the exact same fuel,” Andrews said.

“EcoLine was a way to bring fuel to campus that had been purely wasted before. We were asked by the state to quell the gas coming from landfills and transform it chemically to carbon dioxide, instead of burning it,” Andrews explained, “so the gas was used to power the cogeneration plant.”

The data of the report was analyzed using the Campus Carbon Calculator (CCC), which was created by UNH and Sightlines.

“We also made it online, called the CarbonMAP, to be more user-friendly and be able to track schools easily,”  Andrews added.

“There has been so much tension in higher education in leaders in climate change, so we said ‘hey if we can improve the tool, put all data in one place, what we are doing well, and aren’t doing well, it would be really useful,” Andrews said.

The CCC is now the preferred tool for calculating college and university levels of emissions, being used by “more than 550 North American campuses to measure energy use and emission levels,” according to the UNH-Sightlines report. 

However, the report’s data says that, “since 2007, the amount of space built on campuses has increased 10 percent. During the same time period, enrollment increased 7 percent.”

As enrollment trends currently decrease, campuses have more space, thus obtaining more buildings to consume energy, with fewer students to fill it.

An increase in space is not the only factor that contributes to carbon emissions.

Buildings with an older age profile are more likely to spend more to keep up consumption.

The report suggests, “campuses with aging buildings need to invest at higher levels to maintain the same level of efficiency for their systems.”

While emissions levels are being monitored and technologies being used to enable cleaner energy, some states have poor energy efficiency policies that make it harder to monitor emissions.

Fortunately, “The American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) produces a yearly scorecard that ranks states based on the strength of their energy efficiency policy,” also included in the UNH-Sightlines report.

States with stronger policies will have fewer emissions. New Hampshire was ranked No. 22 out of the U.S. and is the lowest in New England, based on the ACEEE’s data in the report.

However, Andrews added, “UNH’s goal is to reduce 50 [percent] of its carbon emissions by 2020 and that a lot of it comes down to awareness.”

“While the report is a hopeful example for others, overall, we still have a ways to go,” Andrews said.

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