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VU to calculate carbon footprint

Vanderbilt plans to calculate its carbon footprint this spring through a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Conducting this inventory is an ongoing part of Vanderbilt’s commitment to a sound environmental management system that ensures the safety, health, and sustainability of our campus, according to Cynthia Paschal, associate professor of biomedical engineering and chair-elect of the Faculty Senate.

The inventory will determine the amount of the six greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere in an average year, based on 2005-2007 data. These greenhouse gases are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

Several campus groups, including the Faculty Senate as well as a number of student organizations and faculty research groups, have expressed interest in measuring Vanderbilt’s greenhouse gas emissions and enacting a plan for reduction. The Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee just released last week the results of a similar inventory for Metro Nashville/Davidson County.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and are emitted through both natural processes and human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, decay in landfills and the carbon cycle. Vanderbilt emits greenhouse gases through many of its daily operations such as the combustion of coal, use of electricity, commuting and waste disposal.

Once the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, or size of the carbon footprint, is known, strategies can be developed to reduce it. This first inventory will provide a baseline to compare against future improvements. Given the uncertain economic times, the report has the added benefit of identifying and quantifying potential cost-saving opportunities.

“”Both current and future students will be proud that our university is taking such measures to act responsibly in the face of global climate change,”” said senior Brent Fitzgerald, President of SPEAR (Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility).

The goal is to have the greenhouse gas inventory report completed by Earth Day, April 22, 2009.

Brent Fitzgerald carbon footprint Cynthia Pascal

Posted on Monday, February 23, 2009 in Civil and Environmental Engineering, News, Research