Sep 152009
Authors: Matt Minich

CSU Facilities Management released the university’s estimated carbon footprint for the 2009 fiscal year Tuesday, which estimated that the university emits 9.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per full-time student.

According to the report, the university’s carbon emissions total is at 223,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The estimate is down 3 percent from 2008’s emissions — which totaled 230,607 metric tons — university spokesperson Emily Wilmsen said in a university press release.

Replacements of antiquated technology at the university, most notably the motors in the buildings’ air conditioning and heating systems, are responsible for a great deal of the emissions reductions, Facilities Management Director Brian Chase said.

“We use more electricity for motors on campus than we use on electric lights.”

A sharp reduction in airline flights by CSU personnel resulted in about half of the emissions reductions, Facilities Management Engineer Carol Dollard said.

Chase and Dollard agreed that a portion of the reductions could also be caused by the fiscal year’s relatively benign weather, which caused lower heating and air conditioning use. Neither could promise that the rate would continue to decrease because factors, such as weather or future electricity use by CSU researchers, cannot be predicted.

Carbon caused by airline flights falls under the category of “Scope 3” emissions, which are far more difficult to calculate than Scope 1 and 2 emissions, director of CU’s Environmental Center Dave Newport said, calling any estimate a “crap shoot.”

A carbon footprint — defined by as a “measurement of all greenhouse gases we individually produce,” represented in units of tons or kilograms of carbon dioxide –/is made up of a primary and secondary part.

The primary footprint is a measure of an individual’s or institution’s direct carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. An example of this is driving a car or boat, emissions that people have control of.

The measure of indirect carbon dioxide emissions is known as the secondary footprint, and is associated with the “whole lifestyle of products we use,” according to the Web site.

Simply put, the more a person buys, the more emissions are produced as a result.

Carbon emissions are broken into three categories, or “scopes.” Scope 1 emissions are those directly owned and operated by the user, such as those created from gasoline in a car engine. Scope 2 emissions are directly controlled by the user, but owned by another source, such as emissions created from coal burned at the local utility company, Newport said.

Scope 3 emissions, which are neither owned nor controlled by the user, are the most difficult to estimate. Emissions from CSU staff taking airline flights fall under this category.

Just less than 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the university’s estimate are Scope 3 emissions.

“There’s a lot of assumption that goes into making that number,” Dollard said.

The report was compiled by Clean Air Cool Planet, a non-profit organization that calculates carbon emissions for universities without charge. The Brendle Group, a Fort Collins engineering sustainability consulting firm, evaluated the group’s findings.

The price of hiring the consultants came to less than $1,000 and was taken from the Facilities Management budget, Dollard said.

Senior Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at

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