University of St Andrews’ Carbon Footprint

Every year the Environment Team calculates the University’s carbon footprint for the previous fiscal year. Below you can find the data for 2016/17 academic year.

University of St Andrews’ Carbon Footprint

Under the 2009 Climate Change Act all public organisations have a duty to report to the Scottish Government annual carbon (CO2) emissions from business operations. This is why every year we spend a good amount of time pulling up all the information requirewd to calculate our institution’s carbon footprint. But first let’s take a look at what carbon footprint actually constitutes in.

What is a carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint stands for the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere and is a metric used to estimate the impact a process, a person, or an organisation has on climate change. Carbon, in this case, represents the sum total of all the greenhouse gases, which trap heat into the Earth’s atmosphere, thus causing global warming.

A persons’ footprint translates into the amount of resources she or he uses. This includes the modes and frequency of travel; the type of diet they adhere to; the amount of energy they use; the amount of waste they produce, the products (clothes, electronics, etc.) they buy. In short, every action and purchasing decision we take has a carbon footprint associated with it.

University of St Andrews Carbon Footprint

As well as each person having an environmental impact, so do organisations. Here are the major sources that contribute to University of St Andrews’ carbon footprint:

  • Energy – our energy demands are ever-increasing as the University seeks to grow the number of students and further develop St Andrews as a research focused institution – labs and halls of residences are very energy intensive
  • Water – similarly to our energy demand, the growth of the University results in more water consumption, with the highest demand in halls and labs. How does this create carbon? The water and sewage has to be pumped and treated and that uses electricity.
  • Waste – as landfill waste decomposes it releases methane (CH4) which is 25 times more potent than carbon in trapping heat [1]. Further, there are carbon emissions associated with waste processing and transportation. We want to reduce this as much as possible – moving to zero waste to landfill.
  • Business travel – as an international institution lecturers, researchers and staff are travelling around the UK and the rest of the world. We are also just starting to measure and report our emissions from commuting to and from St Andrews. We do this on an estimate, based on car emissions from University-issued car parking permits and travel surveys. Tell us in the comment section – how do you get to class/work each morning?

Pie chart showing the proportion of carbon emissions from each operation.

For the 2016/17 academic year the University’s carbon footprint amounts to 25,692 tonnes of CO2. This represents a 16% reduction in our carbon emissions from the previous year and 27.7% from our baseline in 2012/13!

Emissions from Electricity (43%) declined from 11,970 to 11,018 tonnes – an 8% saving.

Emissions from Heating (31%) – declined from 10,711 to 8,010 – a 25% reduction.

The overall share of emissions from Travel also fell from 24% to 23%.

These savings occurred thanks to:

  • Greener electricity being supplied by the grid, leading to fewer emissions
  • Fewer travel emissions thanks to fuel and aircraft efficiency improvements
  • The commissioning of the University’s BIOMASS DISTRICT HEATING at Eden Campus, Guardbridge. The biomass boiler went online in the beginning of January 2017 and during its first seven months of operation resulted in a 25% decline in CO2 emissions from heating.

How can staff and students contribute to reducing emissions?

Heating and electricity can both be big sources of emissions savings if used in a smart manner. Keeping radiators at medium to low temperatures and turning the heating off when opening a window would both result in fewer emissions overall. Turning off lights and plugging out electrical appliances further add up to emissions savings. Using LEDs  will both save you money and reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and waste disposal, since LEDs use less energy and last much longer than conventional bulbs. Just over the course of 2017, LEDs worldwide have saved 570 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere [2]! Lastly, if you are a University staff member, you can find out your office building’s energy profile by emailing environment@st-andrews.ac.uk asking for access to the energy monitoring system. Knowing your office building’s profile would allow you to identify any energy intensive areas and make changes accordingly.

If your job involves a lot of business travel, opting for the greenest transportation mode will significantly contribute to our emissions reduction targets. When travelling around the UK – choosing rail over domestic air travel will have the single biggest effect on reducing emissions. The University offers first class rail travel for any business trips outwith Scotland as a way of encouraging more sustainable travel. If you have to travel for business within Scotland, rail, bus, or car share are all less carbon intensive than driving to a destination alone. And in the event there is no other suitable option than driving on your own – you can still bring your emissions down by opting for an e-car from our local car club. For more details on how to book an e-car for business travel, have a read through this information leaflet – E-Car for Staff.

[1] http://www.nature.com/articles/nature13164

[2] http://qz.com/index/1174502/the-growing-adoption-of-leds-is-having-a-tangible-effect-on-carbon-emissions/?mc_cid=b128a21354&mc_eid=1975a96c1f 

 

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