Greenhouse Gas Inventory
The Greenhouse Gas Inventory Concept
A greenhouse gas inventory is defined by the EPA as “an accounting of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to or removed from the atmosphere over a specific period of time (e.g. one year). A greenhouse gas inventory also provides information on the activities that cause emissions and removals.”
A greenhouse gas inventory is a process by which an entity takes stock of all the greenhouse gases it puts into or removes from the atmosphere either directly or indirectly as a result of its operating procedures. Conducting an inventory yields the total amount of emissions produced, which is also referred to as a carbon footprint. It measures the effect our actions as a university have on the environment. It makes the intangible, understandable and the previously unmonitored, measurable.
In conducting an inventory, we look at each activity or operation to determine what is being emitted as a result. For example, we look at how many miles are traveled in the university vehicle fleet and how much energy we are using to heat and cool buildings.
By cataloging the effects and categorizing the results, after conducting a greenhouse gas inventory, we have a sense of the big picture, which is our total amount of emissions, and also the pieces of the picture. After conducting an inventory, we begin to understand what our whole pie looks like as well as the individual slices.
Why a Greenhouse Gas Inventory?
In April 2008, the University of Mississippi signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. Part of the commitment a signatory university makes is to conduct a greenhouse gas inventory. However, fulfilling this commitment was not the primary reason the university conducted the inventory. The university made the commitment because it was the right thing to do.
The University of Mississippi has planned and proposed many green initiatives. In order to ensure that the programs make a real impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we must first know what the emission level is and where the biggest culprits are, which signifies where action is needed most. In a time of competing budget priorities, we need to know where to get the most bang for our buck. The biggest payoff, the smartest investment.
It helps to guide our investments and projects and also helps to measure results. We otherwise would not know how much of a difference projects are making.
Dr. Mike Mossing, Associate Professor for Chemistry and Biochemistry, led the Greenhouse Gas Inventory effort as the Faculty Fellow for Sustainability. The Clean Air Cool Planet CA-CP Campus Carbon Calculator™ was chosen to generate the data. This tool is the most widely used among universities and makes it easier to compare to other universities with the same standard.
Dr. Mossing created a spreadsheet from the CA-CP tool and shared it with relevant University staff from the physical plant, registrar, campus parking, landscaping, procurement, facilities planning, study abroad etc. Data was collected from March through May of 2009. It was checked for accuracy, and all the sources were compiled.
To view the university’s greenhouse gas inventory, please visit http://acupcc.aashe.org/index.php?q=&class=&state=MS. Other participating universities’ inventories can be searched and viewed on this site.