Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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As part of a commitment to reduce campus emissions, as outlined in the recent Energy Action Plan, UMD is committed to reduce its emissions 25% from 2007 levels by 2020, and become a carbon neutral institution by 2050.

UMD Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The UMD greenhouse gas inventory, also known as its carbon footprint, is a summation of the greenhouse gases emissions associated with the operation of UMD. It takes into account the natural gas burned in the heating plant, the gasoline used by the UMD vehicle fleet, air travel emissions, commuting emissions, refrigerants, emissions from the generation of the electricity purchased from Minnesota Power, and landscaping fertilizers. As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, UMD is committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, the Sustainability Office calculated our campus carbon footprint for the first time. The UMD carbon footprint was calculated again for 2010 to measure progress on the goals outlined in the Energy Action Plan. By using less resources and reducing emissions UMD is not only having a smaller impact on the environment, but is also more fiscally responsible. The UMD Sustainability Office uses the Cool Air Clean Planet calculator in its greenhouse gas calculations. Emissions tracked by the calculator include CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, PFCs, and HFCs. Non-carbon dioxide compounds are entered into the inventory according to their potential to act as a greenhouse gas, or CO2-equivalent (CO2-e).


In 2007, UMD’s carbon footprint was 57,561metric tons of CO2-e.

In 2010, UMD was able to reduce its carbon footprint to 54,557 metric tons of CO2-e, a decrease of 3,005, representing a 5% drop in carbon emissions. However, much of the reduction of the UMD carbon footprint was realized through a change in Minnesota Power’s fuel-mix, which now produces more electricity through renewable sources. 

In 2013, campus emissions rose, relative to 2010,  to 57,815 metric tons of CO2-e. This rise in emissions responds to various factors including adding additional campus square footage, especially cold winters (which would result in higher energy requirements for heating buildings) or inaccuracies in calculations. What is more important to focus on is the overall trend of UMD emissions. Since UMD started monitoring emissions the overall trend has been relatively flat despite campus growth. While this might not seem like a huge accomplishment, it means that UMD has increased efficiency and been able to counter the emissions that would be associated with additional square footage. Now the goal is to get that trend moving downward. 

Energy Sources

About 90% of campus emissions come from two sources: the steam plant that heats campus buildings and the electricity purchased to power campus.

Total emissions from the UMD campusReducing emissions will require planning and investment – from constructing buildings efficiently, to managing and retrofitting buildings, to upgrading the campus steam district, to seeking renewable energy sources andpromoting energy conservation.

Since 2007, 4 new buildings have opened on the UMD campus (Labovitz School of Business and EconomicsBagley Outdoor ClassroomSwenson Civil Engineering, and Ianni Hall). Although overall emissions reduced from 2007 to 2010 were only 5%, the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions was reduced by 14%. While the UMD campus grew, emissions intensity from energy use was actually reduced from 2007 to 2010.

In 2013, emissions stayed relatively constant in most categories. Commuting emissions were calculated and updated through a student project, view a presentation and the final report on the study.

Non-Energy Sources

While non-energy sources of emissions only compose about 10% of total emissions, they are still essential to reduce and will require efforts from members across the entire UMD community.  One trend especially worth noting is the increase in air travel emissions. The emissions attributed to air travel saw a 47% increase in 2010, however, that increase is largely a reflection of better tracking of UMD financed air travel.
Additionally, the use of refrigerants dropped dramatically when the campus ice rink was remodeled. The old rink floor was made of steel pipe embedded in concrete and coils filled with hydrochlorofluorocarbons, a refrigerant otherwise known as R-22 and a powerful greenhouse gas. The new system will use glycol instead of R-22 and will reduce the total refrigerant use by 89%.