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Posts Tagged ‘Clean Air-Cool Planet’

The State of Renewables in Higher Education

This webcast was broadcast on November 29th 2012, 2:00-3:00pm EST

Supporting Documents

Second Nature and the U.S. EPA’s Green Power Partnership are collaborating to identify the barriers to expanding renewable energy use among colleges and universities, identify solutions, provide education and training on green power procurement strategies and explore the possibilities of joint purchasing opportunities.

To kick-off this partnership, Second Nature and EPA invite you to participate in an interactive event to learn more about trends and possibilities in colleges and universities incorporation of green power onto their campuses, and in their climate reduction goals.

The live event will stream on this page.  Please bookmark this link and register to participate in the event.

Leaning Objectives:

  • Understand the environmental, financial, and non-tangible benefits of procuring renewable electricity
  • Gain a better understanding of the challenges being faced by institutions trying to purchase or produce green power
  • Assess the current state of green power on campuses and potential for green power purchasing and production growth
  • Recognize the various procurement options for renewable electricity such as on-site generation, PPAs, project off-take arrangements, contracts for bundled or unbundled RECs
  • Identify new opportunities for learning and collaboration among institutions participating in the event

Webinar Panelists

  • David Hales, President, Second Nature
  • Blaine Collison, Program Director, Green Power Partnership, US EPA
  • Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
  • Jenn Andrews, Director of Program Planning and Coordination, Clean Air-Cool Planet
  • Anthony Amato, Senior Analyst, Energy and Climate Change, ERG

For more information or questions about this event, please contact info@secondnature.org.

About Second Nature
www.secondnature.org
Second Nature works to create a healthy, just, and sustainable society beginning with the transformation of higher education. Second Nature is the support organization of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

About the EPA’s Green Power Partnership
www.epa.gov/greenpower 
The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to buy green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with purchased electricity use. The Partnership currently has more than 1,300 Partner organizations voluntarily purchasing billions of kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a wide variety of leading organizations such as Fortune 500 companies, small and medium sized businesses, local, state, and federal governments, and colleges and universities.

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How to Participate

This event will be broadcast using Google+ Hangouts on Air to a live YouTube video. Please be sure to reserve a room or space which is equipped to screen YouTube videos.  You will not need a Google+ account to participate.  On the day of the event, this page (the page you are currently viewing) will have the YouTube video streaming live.  Simply visit this page to begin screening the video at 2pm EST. Please note that the video will be posted no earlier than 1:45pm EST the day of the event.  If you are having trouble seeing the video, try refreshing the page or restarting your browser.

Submitting Questions

We invite you to submit questions to the panelists ahead of time to help guide the discussion! Please leave a comment at the end of this post with your question for one or all of the panelists.

If you would like to submit questions and participate in the interactive components of this event during the event, you will need a Google or YouTube account.  To ask a question, click on the “Watch on YouTube” button in the lower right hand corner of the video window.  This will take you to the live video on the Second Nature YouTube Channel.  To ask a question, sign in to your Google or YouTube account, then post your question in the “Comments” section below the video.  Your question will appear instantly to the moderator.

Unable to make this live broadcast?
A recording of the broadcast will be made available shortly after the event on the Second Nature YouTube Channel, and on this blog.  Please register if you would like to receive information about the recording or live broadcast.

Technical Difficulties?
Questions about how to screen this event, or having difficulty?  Email info@secondnature.org.

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By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(This article appears in the September, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerScope 3, or indirect emissions not covered by Scope 2, are a challenging set of categories to gather data for in greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, but are essential for campuses to fully account for their upstream and downstream climate footprint.  Greenhouse gas reporting for the ACUPCC requires signatories to submit two categories of Scope 3 emissions: regular daily commuting to and from campus by students, faculty, and staff and air travel paid for by or through the institution. The

ACUPCC encourages signatories to go beyond these requirements and submit additional indirect emissions categories. An analysis of ACUPCC GHG reports demonstrates that many signatories have chosen to report additional scope 3 emission categories.  Of the 93% of the signatories that have submitted at least one GHG report, 65% have included information on their solid waste emissions and 20.6% have elected to report custom scope 3 emissions.

Custom Scope 3 Sources for ACUPCC GHG Reporting

ACUPCC signatories had reported these custom Scope 3 sources in publicly submitted greenhouse gas inventories as of August 2012 (Data taken from rs.acupcc.org)

Taking a closer look at the GHG custom scope 3 sources, it becomes clear that institutions report on areas of both common concern and programmatic significance, with sources ranging from standard (paper procurement) to the highly specific (animal husbandry).  Over 180 unique scope 3 sources have been reported, but further analysis shows that the majority of these sources fall under four main categories: Travel, Paper, Water, and electricity Transmission & Distribution Losses.  An additional 12% of these custom sources can be categorized as “Other” with more specific accounting.

Transmission & distribution losses, or T&D losses, make up the largest reporting category, accounting for 36% of custom scope 3 sources.  Essentially, T&D accounts for the energy lost during electricity transmission, which is a known grid inefficiency.  According to US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, national, annual T&D losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States, making T&D losses a logical first step for those concerned with fully accounting upstream indirect emissions.

The ACUPCC hosted a webinar Expanding Scope 3 Emissions Tracking and Reporting on September 5, 2012 in partnership with Clean-Air Cool Planet, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and the New College of Florida.  Panelists discussed the possibilities for campuses to expand their Scope 3 emissions sources in order to account for a fuller emissions baseline by using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s newly revised Scope 3 Reporting Standard as a framework for submitting additional custom scope 3 sources, such as T&D, which is considered an “upstream activity” or “investments,” from the college’s endowment, as a “downstream” activity.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s 15 Scope 3 Reporting Standard emissions categories

 The GHG Protocol has just ended a public comment period (July 2012) on an amendment that revises the Corporate, Scope 3 and Product Life Cycle Standards to require the reporting of all UNFCCC GHGs and the use of a more consistent set of Global Warming Potentials (GWP). The update does not affect ACUPCC Scope 3 required reporting, but signatories that are looking at their supply chain emissions should read up on the amendment.

For many of the custom sources reported outside of the ACUPCC requirements for scope 3, there is some question as to whether categories are being double-counted, or belong in a different component of the report.  (For those unfamiliar with the requirements of the ACUPCC reports, the Instructions for Submitting a Greenhouse Gas Report may be useful).  Additionally, some campuses may be choosing to segment scope 3 or other emissions categories for their own projects or accounting purposes, causing some inconsistencies in reporting.  For instance, Biogenic sources created by the combustion of biomass and biomass-based fuels may already accounted for as a Scope 1 source (stationary and/or mobile combustion) in the GHG report, and Study Abroad Air Travel is already included under Scope 3 Air Travel accounting.

ACUPCC Custom Scope 3 sources

Click for an expanded version of the custom scope 3 sources, by category, in ACUPCC public greenhouse gas reports

Categories involving emissions related to water (potable, waste, thermal), food procurement, and investment are of particular interest to campuses and student groups, but with few examples of successful and long-term accounting are currently present to act as leadership models.

For instance, a new study by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCI) and Tellus Institute, “Environmental, Social and Governance Investing by College and University Endowments in the United States: Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Relations,” found that college and university endowments’ environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investments are “less prevalent than often believed, particularly given their history as sustainable investing pioneers dating back to 1970s anti-apartheid campaigns.”  Watch a webinar on the report findings here, or read the press release.

In future GHG reports and the development of reporting for higher education, the role of scope 3 emissions may grow to include accounting for some of these areas in a more formal and ongoing manner as new resources and tools become available.  The streamlined reporting in Clean Air-Cool Planet’s soon to be released web-based Campus Carbon Calculator will be among these tools: look for a first release in Fall 2012.

Additionally, the GHG Protocol is working on the development of a reporting standard for assessing the impact of downstream endowment emissions, a tool which, when completed, could provide an essential new tool for students and campuses to assess the climate impact of their endowments.

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By Christie-Joy Hartman, Executive Director, Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, James Madison University; Linda Petee, Sustainability & Risk Management Coordinator, Delta College; Jennifer Andrews, Director of Program Planning & Coordination and Tim Ryder, Undergraduate Climate Fellow, Clean Air-Cool Planet; Rita Alison, National Senior Manager Sustainability & Environmental Stewardship, ARAMARK

(This article appears in the September, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Food consumption is a potentially significant Scope 3 source not currently included in many universities’ emissions inventories. Faithful readers of The Implementer, may recall an article from 2010 discussing the development of the CHarting Emissions from Food Services (CHEFS) calculator that estimates food-related climate impact. CHEFS is a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) tool that accounts for emissions associated with the production, use, and disposal of campus food-related products. The CHEFS tool, developed by Clean Air-Cool Planet with initial support from ARAMARK, is currently completing a beta test following successful pilot testing in 2011. The beta test entails four campus sustainability coordinators working with ARAMARK staff to collaboratively detail and tally a semester’s worth of campus choices in menu planning, purchasing, and dining-related operations.  The data is entered into the CHEFS web-based interface, producing the food-related carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for each campus.

With finite resources and a myriad of environmental project possibilities, campus sustainability coordinators need to consider and often justify measuring and reporting yet another set of metrics. The intent of CHEFS is to help determine the relative significance of Scope 3 food-related emissions by quantifying the magnitude and effect of the food product lifecycle. For example, preliminary results from one of the beta-testing schools indicate that meat represents 55% of that campus’ total food-related carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and removing one day’s worth of meat reduces approximately 8% of those emissions.  These kinds of results could provide valuable information for prioritizing institutional and individual food purchasing actions. James Madison University (JMU) and Delta College, two of the higher education institutions who are participating in the CHEFS beta test, are investing time in CHEFS with the goals of not only enhancing institutional decision making and informing consumer choice, but also enhancing education.

Delta College, which has a self-run dining service program, has collaborated with pilot projects in the past and found them to be mutually beneficial, and it approached the CHEFS project with the goal that it would serve as the campus food operations base year data.  Delta’s institutional strategic planning leads it to benchmark its programs, to assess progress, and to set measurable goals for continuous improvement.  With the purchasing data Delta collected through the CHEFS pilot, it now has a solid foundation of information from which to identify objectives toward more sustainable dining.  As a start, Delta’s office of sustainability is now developing data entry forms so their food service staff can more easily capture their inventory for a seamless transfer to the CHEFS software moving forward.  They found that CHEFS provided them a template and pointed them in the right direction to start tackling the climate impact of their dining services!

Delta College administrators can utilize the results in the context of their broader institutional emissions profile.  For example, the purchasing data that Delta collected for the beta test, while still quite preliminary, suggests that in some instances food purchases alone have more impact than the total of Scope 1 emissions and nearly half of all Scope 2 emissions.

JMU’s dining services is using CHEFS to obtain a preliminary estimate of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from food-related operations for 2011. A JMU graduate assistant is exploring employing CHEFS to analyze a variety of possible future paths, such as adding more vegetarian dishes, developing seasonal menus, and simply operating more efficiently.  Ideally, the results would be used by ARAMARK in combination with cost and feasibility information to reduce emissions.

JMU’s Office of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability also hopes to use the results to help achieve one of its main goals–challenging citizens to think critically about their roles as environmental stewards. Dining is a focal point at JMU (where on campus dining is ranked by The Princeton Review in the top 10 in the nation) that presents an opportunity to connect with consumers not necessarily already actively engaged in sustainability conversations.  JMU is exploring conducting a second scenario analysis in CHEFS that focuses on individual behaviors such as throwing away less food, utilizing less take-out packaging, and eating less meat. Results could then be communicated to consumers via methods such as the qualitative labeling system that is being developed as part of CHEFS.  The analyses itself could provide opportunities for scholarly articles by students and faculty members as well as material for interdisciplinary undergraduate environmental issues courses.

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Higher Education’s Role in Adapting to a Changing ClimateHuman society is facing an unprecedented rate of change due to a very rapidly shifting climate.  This is resulting in already-documented vulnerabilities to human communities,” said Dr. David A. Caruso, President of Antioch University New England.  “As this report makes clear, higher education institutions are well-positioned and ready to leverage the best of our faculty and students to empower people to rapidly respond, in effective, just and transparent ways, to a changing world.

Read the news release about the report, learn about the committee responsible for authoring it, or download the PDF.

Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC, and Clean Air – Cool Planet administered the committee and supported the development of the report.

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By Claire Roby, Carbon Accounting Manager, Clean Air-Cool Planet
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

At the recent 2011 AASHE conference, Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) unveiled the next phase of the Campus Carbon Calculator™ evolution: we’ve partnered with Sightlines, LLC, to redevelop the Campus Carbon Calculator as a dynamic, web-based solution.  The goal: to streamline the transition from analysis to action with a simpler, more powerful tool.

History

Back in 2001, CA-CP partnered with the University of New Hampshire to develop a template for campus greenhouse gas tracking. That Excel-based template — better known as the Campus Carbon Calculator™ — has since become the most widely-used carbon management tool in higher education, evolving with user needs to become increasingly comprehensive while remaining transparent, customizable and free.

The decision to move from Excel to a web-based platform is based on a number of factors. The Calculator’s size and complexity long ago began stretching the limits of Excel. In addition, user needs continue to evolve: users are tracking an expanding list of metrics and reporting their performance to a widening variety of organizations. Users want to spend less time analyzing sustainability and greenhouse gas projects, and more time doing them. It is clear to CA-CP that a better solution is needed.

Development

Development of the new tool began long before the AASHE 2011 Conference. It started with insights from CA-CP’s decade of experience with the Calculator—the questions and suggestions received from countless workshops and trainings, and one-on-one interaction with thousands of users.  It continued with Sightlines contributions: perspective informed by 10 years of providing colleges and universities with qualified data, benchmarks, and insight into campus trends and best practices, as well as direct use of the Calculator to generate and benchmark annual inventories for over 55 institutions.  This past spring, the project team consulted with other leading organizations working on campus sustainability and contracted a user interface specialist to complete 20 hours of user testing.  The culmination of this research was unveiled at the AASHE conference, giving attendees a preview of what to expect from the improved tool. (more…)

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By Jennifer Andrews, Director of Program Planning and Integration, Clean Air-Cool Planet
(This article appears in the February, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCOne of the questions that CA-CP still gets quite often as we support schools in their GHG inventories and climate action plans is, “What about our forests?  Can’t we count them as offsets, since they are sequestering carbon?”  You can read the initial response to that question in this article, previously printed in the Implementer.  We have since worked with Chatham University (Pittsburgh, PA) and the US Forest Service to explore in more detail the role campus forest or other green space might play in the journey toward carbon neutrality.

The results of that collaboration can be downloaded from CA-CP’s webinar archives.  They include a sample Campus Tree Policy, as well as a great deal of useful information on how to use the Forest Service’s online “I-Tree” tool to accurately assess the ecosystem benefits provided by the forest, including carbon sequestration and fossil fuel avoidance through the shading of buildings.  So far, though, our work with these partners has only scratched the service of the broader question of how campus lands might actually offset the institutional carbon footprint.  Indeed, there has been relatively little work in this arena overall.

One reason, of course, is that most ACUPCC signatories have been—appropriately—focused first on mechanisms for reducing or avoiding their actual campus emissions, and simply haven’t yet gotten to the question of how they will offset the emissions they can’t reduce, except in the broadest of terms.  (For example, many schools have gotten so far as to express a preference in their climate action plans for helping create new, local offset projects rather than purchasing offsets off the open voluntary market—a preference which would of course make projects involving campus land a subject of interest.)

The second reason is that the land-based projects or practices so far identified as having the highest potential to serve as viable carbon offsets come with a couple of thorny sticking points.  A number of agencies, firms and schools are working to overcome these barriers, which we’ll explore in a bit more depth in a moment, but there is still some significant innovation and refinement needed to ensure that these potential carbon offset mechanisms can be credible, effective and viable for ACUPCC signatories.

The first three mechanisms by which campus lands might be employed as carbon offsets are reforestation, afforestation (in other words, planting new forests on land that was not previously forested), and enhanced forest management (revamping existing practices of care and harvesting to keep trees growing for as long—and only for as long—as they increase their carbon uptake by a certain rate annually.)  All three are offset techniques for which there are methodologies in the existing offset protocols and programs (for example, CAR and VCS, both featured in other articles in this edition of the Implementer, have standards for afforestation and/or reforestation projects).  These methodologies are meant to address issues of measurement and credibility, since without such standards the way in which forest carbon sequestration is measured and credited could be too subjective.

Two additional issues particularly relevant to these kinds of forest-based offsets are synchronicity and permanence. Both of these are characteristics cited in the ACUPCC Offset Protocol as important elements of acceptable offsets.   Synchronicity—the idea that the carbon reductions (or avoidance) that occur as the result of an offset need to occur in roughly the same time frame as the emissions they are offsetting, in order to be valid—is naturally a question if one is creating new forests now to offset current emissions, since the trees in that forest will take years, even decades, to reach their full sequestration potential.  And permanence is always a hard qualification to establish for forest projects, susceptible as they are to pest infestation, fire or other natural disasters that could very rapidly and unexpectedly re-release the carbon sequestered there (though there are measures specified by VCS, for example, to account for this risk.).

These roadblocks are not stopping schools from looking at the potential of these types of forestry projects (on their land or even on the land of potential partners in the community), but it has meant that there are few if any such projects that have been implemented to date.  Cornell and  Duke universities are a couple examples of schools that have stated their intentions to explore the potential for such projects, or have actively begun researching them, but to date few if any schools have actually implemented such a project on their own lands, and only a handful have invested in such projects in other locations (Temple is one, Connecticut College is another).

A third potential offset mechanism that is getting a hard look by a number of ACUPCC schools (and others)[1] is biochar.  Biochar is similar to charcoal, except that instead of being used as a fuel, it is applied as a soil amendment and used to effectively sequester carbon in the soil.  It is produced by subjecting biomass to pyrolysis, or combustion at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen.  The process of pyrolysis can actually be optimized to generate biochar or to generate biogas.  The implication is that schools producing biomass (wood chips, but also corn stover, switchgrass, even yard waste) might employ pyrolysis to create biochar from that biomass—which can then be used both to improve agricultural soils (as an alternative to chemical fertilizer) and to sequester carbon—thus creating a carbon offset.  (It’s also theoretically possible to use biochar in energy systems that currently rely on coal combustion, or, to substitute the biogas created through pyrolysis for natural gas, or even a liquid transportation fuel in some applications.)

Much research is currently underway comparing the life-cycle use of energy to create biochar with the amount of energy use (and GHG emissions) that biochar can avoid or reduce.  The results of those analyses differ depending on the type of feedstock used, but in general the results look quite promising.[2] Beyond the technical questions of biochar’s energy and carbon balance, the economic viability of producing and using it (as either a fossil fuel substitute or a soil amendment to sequester carbon) is still being worked out.  While many experiments at a small scale are underway, there is as yet no commercial-scale biochar production, largely because the economics are not yet highly favorable.  Nevertheless, this is one potential offset technology that you should expect to be hearing much more about in the coming months and years.

Jennifer Andrews is Director of Program Planning and Integration at Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP), whose Consumers Guide to Carbon Offsets was a ground-breaking publication in 2006 and continues to be an important resource on the promise and pitfalls of carbon offsets, and the basics of offset quality.  Jenn was a member of the working group that produced the ACUPCC Offset Protocol in 2008.


[1] The University of Illinois, University of Georgia, Cornell University, and the University of Colorado are a few among a growing number of schools researching the production and use of biochar.

[2] See, for example, the study published by Reberts et al in Environmental Science and Technology last year: http://www.citeulike.org/user/kmscow/article/7165547, or the presentation of their research: http://www.cns.umass.edu/biochar09/presentations/Roberts.ppt

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By Barbara Koneval, Program Associate, Education & Training

Over 35 representatives from minority serving institutions including faculty, administration, facilities managers, students and deans gathered in Atlanta for a 2-day training presented by Second Nature and Clean Air Cool Planet, as part of the UNCF Building Green Initiative training Series, funded by the Kresge Foundation.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hunter Photography

The goal of the initiative is to build both the sustainability knowledge and capacity of minority serving college and universities and help them overcome barriers to building green and planning for carbon reductions on their campuses.

The first day of the workshop started with an introduction to greenhouse gas management. Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) led the training on the Campus Carbon Calculator™, a tool that’s been used by students, faculty and sustainability managers on over 1,000 campuses to measure their emissions on campus.

Jennifer Andrews and Claire Roby from CA-CP reviewed the basics of what a greenhouse gas inventory is, the

Photo Credit: Donnie Hunter Photography

steps in the process, how to collect data, what to expect and how to engage stakeholders on your campus in addition to providing cases studies from two schools that have used the calculator.   Participants ended the day by crunching real numbers and working with a set of data entering the information into the excel based tool. CA-CP reviewed the Projections and Solutions module of the calculator on the second day of the workshop including how to use these modules as a strategic planning tool to prioritize and understand the impacts of potential projects.

Day 2 of the workshop transitioned from the details of GHG Management to a review of the overall process of climate action planning.   Matt Williams from Auburn University and Bowen Close from Pomona College were the peer trainers for this portion of the workshop.  Matt and Bowen focused on the climate action planning process and case studies from their respective schools, the similarities and differences between Auburn as a large public institution and Pomona a smaller private college, and the common lessons learned from their experiences.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hunter Photography

The goals for the day were to have participants understand the key elements of a climate action plan and learn best practices from their peers on other campuses.  In addition, participants worked in teams to create a strategy and to-do list to take back to their campus.   Participants broke out into groups and discussed challenges, supports that are currently in place at their institution, objectives and next steps.

Participants walked away with new ideas and a clearer understanding of both GHG management and climate action planning. The workshop was an opportunity to learn new information, but to also connect with their peers, share ideas and build a network to provide each other with support as they begin this process.

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