August 18, 2022

The College Should Target Its Purchasing and Travel Habits to Reduce Carbon Emissions

4 min read
The College Should Target Its Purchasing and Travel Habits to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Universities and other institutions of higher education that are involved in research, education, and community service are crucial in advancing sustainable development. As a result, they are more closely associated with the idea of estimating their carbon footprint (CF), a method to evaluate sustainability from the standpoint of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

By examining many essential areas, including the time period, methodologies and practices, calculation tools, emission sources, emission factors, and reduction goals, the study’s objective is to conduct a thorough analysis of the current state of CF assessment in academic institutions. The review protocol took articles up to March 2021 into consideration.

35 of the publications under evaluation are specifically focused on calculating the CF of HEI, while the remaining articles are reviews, articles assessing the CF of specific activities, or articles discussing GHG emission reduction. When results are compared for the normalized CF (average of 2.67 t CO2e/student, ranging from 0.06 to 10.94), or the percentage of carbon offsetting, which is only taken into account in 14% of the research and ranges from 0.09 to 18%, there are obvious disparities. The College Should Target Its Purchasing and Travel Habits to Reduce Carbon Emissions

The main cause of this is the lack of standardization with regard to the time metric (year, semester), the functional unit (student, employee, area), and data collection boundary (scope 1, 2, 3), as well as the sources and emission factors of emissions, particularly for scope 3 (water consumption and treatment, waste treatment, office, ICT, and laboratory consumables, commuting and travel, construction materials, canteens, etc). (the aim of the project and absorption sources and factors).

Despite the variations, a clear decline over time is visible. As a result, CF in HEI needs to be improved upon and a number of problems must be resolved, including the identification of representative emission sources, the development of a reliable database of emission factors, and the creation of tools and methodologies that can meet all the requirements of this kind of organization.


In order for society to successfully address the climate and environmental challenges posed by international frameworks, such as the Green Deal (COM 640 2019) and the framework for achieving climate neutrality (COM 80 2020), which are focused on achieving climate neutrality in the short/medium term, academic institutions play a crucial and significant role.

As organizations dedicated to both education and research, higher education institutions (HEI) have a significant impact on producing graduates who are responsible and involved in maintaining sustainable development. HEI also has a responsibility to set an example for both its students and staff as well as for society at large. Because of this, determining, monitoring, and reporting an organization’s own carbon footprint (CF) is a good place to start on the road to sustainability.The College Should Target Its Purchasing and Travel Habits to Reduce Carbon Emissions

The IPCC Guidelines (2006) define “carbon footprint” as “a representation of the effect on climate in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are created, measured in units of CO2e as a result of the activities of an organization,” with units of CO2e being the unit of measurement. The formula below can be used to determine GHG emissions for each source:

GHG emissions from a specific source are calculated as ES=ADS+EFS, where ES is the product of ADS, which represents a quantitative measure of the source expressed in units (for example, liters of gasoline or kWh of electricity), and EFS, which is a coefficient that enables activity data to be converted into GHG emissions. The total CF is measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalent after the sum of the total GHG emissions from all sources has been determined (CO2e). This is a standard measure for describing GHG emissions; it denotes the amount of CO2 that would have the same effect on global warming for any quantity and type of GHG.

Despite the fact that organizations considerably contribute to GHG emissions, methodological guidance for them is less defined and prescriptive than for products (Robinson et al. 2015). The CF of organizations is determined according to a variety of international criteria. The GHG Protocol (2004), ISO 14064-1 (2006), ISO/TR 14069 (2013), PAS 2050 (2011), and PAS 2060 are among the most important regulatory frameworks (2014).

The College Should Target Its Purchasing and Travel Habits to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Although they were initially used to confirm compliance with the Kyoto Protocol’s (2008) requirements for quantifying GHG emissions within organizations, their use is now pervasive in various sorts of organizations that are voluntarily interested in calculating and publishing their CF.

Universities are institutions dedicated to post-secondary education and research that grant academic degrees in a variety of fields. Higher education institutions are also referred to as universities. Therefore, they play a crucial role in sustainable development and the battle against climate change as organizations are involved in education, research, and community activities (Cordero et al. 2020).

According to Robinson et al. (2018), CF is a highly helpful tool for exerting more control over activities that have an influence on the environment. It also provides a baseline for assessing the effects of future mitigation initiatives on-campus (Letete et al. 2011).

The Talloires Declaration (TD 1990) and the Cre-Copernicus University Charta (Copernicus 1993), as well as organizations and networks like the CRUE’s Sectoral Sustainability Commission (CRUE 2002), the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE 2005), and the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC 2007), have already acknowledged the role of HEI in sustainability (GreenMetric 2010).

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