CU-Boulder Carbon Inventory Compares Well with Peer Institutions

Published: Sept. 16, 2008

The University of Colorado at Boulder today released its carbon inventory, showing that the campus's total greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions from all sources during fiscal year 2007-08 was 170,240 metric tons CO2e -- an amount equal to the yearly total emissions from about 9,000 U.S. households.

The information was released in accordance with the requirements of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, or ACUPCC, of which CU-Boulder has been a signatory since 2006.

It was compiled by a working group within the Chancellor's Committee for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, which is chaired by CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Administration Frank Bruno.

"What our analysis shows is that we can make improvements in our carbon footprint," said Bruno. "The good news is, it's been our plan to make these improvements all along, and now we have a clearer picture of what progress will look like."

The report shows that the bulk of CU-Boulder's total emissions -- about two-thirds -- is the result of energy purchased from secondary sources such as Xcel Energy's electrical generating plants. Approximately 17 percent of the reportable GHG emissions come from indirect, non-owned sources such as commuting, air travel, and solid waste disposal, and about 16 percent result from vehicle-fleet fuel combustion or natural-gas boiler operations.

The relative proportion of GHG emission sources is consistent with typical campus GHG emission profiles at institutions of higher education nationwide.

"Looking at our GHG emissions per full-time student enrollment profile, with our enrollment of more than 29,000 students, we compare quite a bit better than peers such as the University of Arkansas (with nearly 15,000 students) and the University of Maryland (with more than 32,000 students) and the University of New Mexico (20,000 students).

"Our GHG emissions have increased some since switching away from natural-gas fired electricity," said Dave Newport, director of the CU Environmental Center. "However, producing a quantitative, well-researched GHG inventory and the implementation plan to carbon neutrality that is now being compiled demonstrates that the campus is committed to real progress on carbon neutrality and not just taking a shot in the dark."

"Many of the 575 U.S. campuses that have signed the ACUPCC will this week publish their GHG inventories and then complete their research of how to actually achieve carbon neutrality," Newport said. "Only a couple of campuses have seen fit to commit to a carbon neutrality date in the absence of quantitative information as to how to really execute it. Our leadership has made it clear that CU will first research, and then deliver, a credible plan."

Newport said CU-Boulder has already shown a commitment to "real progress" as exemplified by the campus's embracing of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's Executive Orders for a 20 percent per square foot energy conservation goal by 2012, a 20 percent GHG reduction goal by 2020, and an 80 percent GHG reduction goal by 2050.

Additionally, CU is a signatory of the ACUPCC and is currently researching a feasibility plan in accordance with the ACUPCC that will identify a date by which the university seeks to attain carbon neutrality. That plan will be published by Sept. 15, 2009.

The CU-Boulder Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory is available at under Campus Sustainability or at