USC releases greenhouse gas report

USC recently released a detailed report of its greenhouse gas emission activities from 2001 to 2009 to provide a baseline number of the amount of emissions during a typical year.

The report, which was put together by the USC Office of Sustainability, highlights the gas emission output of both USC’s University Park Campus and Health Sciences Campus.

This report was completed to help understand where the university stands on such an important issue as GHG emissions, according to Ed Becker, the executive director of Environmental Health and Safety.

“This is the first greenhouse gas emission inventory that the university has done, and it can help in gauging what to do in the future,” Becker said. “The faculty and students can work together, look at the inventory and use this data to create something. What they’ll create, we will have to wait to see.”

The emissions output is categorized into three scopes that includes direct emissions, indirect emissions and the emission of GHGs from the creation of products and services that the university employs.

In the last couple of years, USC has become more environmentally aware, according to Becker.

“There is an energy department on campus that has done numerous energy projects for the last couple of years, replacing better efficient light bulbs, chilling systems, among other things,” Becker said.

As USC works toward a greener future, this report is a step in building student involvement and becoming a more sustainable campus.

“Put out a rich set of data and the academic community will take it in a direction we never imagined,” Becker said.

As a whole, the university has had a 19 percent increase in GHG emissions from the year 2001 to 2009, according to the report. Emissions, which peaked in 2007, have decreased by 3 percent as a direct correlation to the actions the university has taken toward becoming more environmentally friendly.

Becker said a green office program was started recently, where different on campus departments can certify their commitment to being environmentally friendly.

This report is only the starting point, according to Becker.

“We didn’t have a baseline before, this report is intended to form a baseline for future inventory and allow for students and faculty to make comparisons when experimenting,” Becker said.

The report measures GHG in tonnes, which is a metric unit equal to about 2,200 pounds. From 2001 to 2009, USC emitted an estimated 1.4 million tonnes into the atmosphere.

The report puts the number into perspective by comparing USC’s combined output of 1.4 million tonnes to New York City’s annual output of 60 million tonnes.

“The main goal is that we want USC to be a living laboratory for students and for them to really learn about energy efficiency projects and the effect of GHGs in the environment,” Becker said. “We want to provide the information and pathway to apply some of the things they are learning, to use USC and its resources to experiment.”

Becker said because USC is such a large campus, any successful programs to eliminate GHG emissions might also be applied to larger metropolitan areas.

The report details the emission of gas in different buildings on campus during each individual month to demonstrate how weather, occupancy and other factors either contribute to an increase or decrease of GHG emissions.

Jeffrey Nakashioya, a junior majoring in environmental science, said he thinks that the GHG emission report was a smart move by USC.

“It’s great that they are making the information more accessible to the students,” Nakashioya said. “Awareness and an honest evaluation of the issues are crucial if good policy is to follow.”