Climate Action

Climate Action Graphic by Vitoria Cassol

On this page, you will find:

 

A Brief Sustainability Timeline at SUA timeline depicting major events related to sustainability at SU

SU's Climate Commitment

In 2007, Seattle University became a charter signatory of the American College & University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). We believe that higher education must educate students and conduct research to develop the social, environmental, economic and technological solutions to reverse global climate change and lead by example to reduce our campus’ emissions.  

The ACUPCC Commitment required signatories to: 

  • Establish an institutional structure 
  • Complete an Emissions inventory within a year and annually thereafter 
  • Establishing a climate neutrality action plan setting a target date and interim milestones for achieving climate neutrality 
  • Take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Integrate sustainability into the curriculum
  • Make the climate action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available

See the ACUPCC Implementation Guide here. 

 

Climate Action Plan (2010)

In 2010, Seattle University created a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to further deepen and strengthen its commitment to sustainability. The CAP describes the university’s intentions to more comprehensively address climate change and advance sustainability and sets the following four goals:

Updated CAP Infographic 2022

In 2011,The President’s Committee for Sustainability (PCS)was convened to oversee: 

  • The implementation of Seattle University's Climate Action Plan 
  • The integration of sustainability initiatives across the Seattle University community 

See Seattle University's Climate Action Plan (2010) here.

 

Reducing SU’s Carbon Footprint 

Seattle University has committed to work towards carbon neutrality or zero Greenhouse Gas emissions. SU’s initial Climate Action Plan was to reduce emissions by at least 12% by 2020 and by at least 51% by 2035 from the baseline year 2009. We achieved our 2020 goal earlier than planned, and by fiscal year 2019, SU’s greenhouse gas net emissions were 15,990 metric tons or a19.0% reduction since 2009.

Pie chart depicting a breakdown of SU's FY2019 greenhouse gas emissions into different categories

The reduction can be attributed to investments in new campus infrastructure, a decrease in natural gas consumption as well as reductions in single-occupant vehicle commuting and air travel by SU employees and students.

The landscape version of the Carbon Reduction Infographic 2022 Download the Carbon Footprint Reduction Infographic (2022) here.

 

Carbon Offsets Purchasing (2022)

Learn about carbon offsets here.

For a brief overview of SU's carbon offsets purchasing, see this SU today article.

While the university is committed to reducing emissions through on-campus projects and programs, it recognizes that the need for climate action is urgent and SU will be unable to reduce 100% of its emissions through its own actions. In 2019, CEJS and the PCS created “A Climate Positive Campus” which describes how carbon offsets are a necessary tool to ensure that SU meets its existing climate commitment by the target dates.

In 2022, a PCS carbon offset committee evaluated the use of high-quality offsets as a supplemental strategy for achieving climate neutrality. The committee recommended that the University purchase third-party-verified offset projects that provide significant social, environmental, and economic benefits to communities that go beyond the benefits of GHG reductions while offering significant academic benefits to the Seattle University community and are in accordance with Laudato Si’s call for Integral Ecology and protecting creation and SU's Jesuit mission of academic excellence, sustainability, and empowering leaders for a just and humane world.

Offset Project Reasons It Was Chosen
King County Rural Forest Carbon Project
  • Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)
  • Local project with potential for SU involvement (e.g., student/faculty research) that connects with SU mission
  • Co-benefits:
    • Environment: reduced stormwater runoff (SDG* 15); enhanced water quality (SDG 6); sustaining salmon and wildlife (SDG 14); protecting wildlife corridors, tree canopy, and green spaces (SDG 15)
    • Healthy communities: cleaner urban environment (SDG 11); improved access to nature; carbon financing promotes land acquisition for new public parks that promote physical activity; provide shade; spaces for play, reduced air pollution, improve urban air quality (SDG 3)
Honduras Cookstove Project
  • Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)
  • Project addresses environmental justice, which is connected to our SU Mission
  • Co-benefits:
    • Health (SDG 3): reduced indoor air pollution
    • Gender equality (SDG 5): Women and girls empowerment
    • Environment (SDG 15): prevent deforestation for fuel usage, protect local ecosystem and wildlife habitat
    • Economic (SDG 8): cost and time savings to families, local employment opportunity, market creation for fuel efficient stoves
    • More sustainable and efficient energy (SDG 7)

*SDG = United Nations Sustainable Development Goal

While the carbon offset committee has supported carbon offsets as a reasonable, short-term approach to the University’s Scope 1 emissions as we develop longer term solutions and seek to address Scope 3 emissions, the committee made the following recommendations:

  1. Establish a target date for achieving carbon neutrality that is no later than 2030
  2. Develop a plan in FY23 to reduce our annual Scope 1 emissions to zero by eliminating the use of natural gas, gasoline, and diesel fuel by our campus operations.
  3. Develop a plan in FY23 to address our Scope 3 emissions. 
  4. Update the university’s carbon offset portfolio between September and February each fiscal year and select projects that have co-benefits and meet VCS or GOLD Standard criteria.

See the Carbon Offset Portfolio Proposal (2022) here.

 

Divestment at SU

SeattleU was the first Jesuit university in the world to commit to full fossil fuel divestment. In 2018, Seattle University's (SU) Board of trustees voted to divest from fossil fuels with goals to, "by June 30, 2023, fully divest the marketable portion of the endowment from any investments in companies owning fossil fuel reserves,” and “to achieve a 50 percent reduction by December 31, 2020.” In March 2020, the 50% reduction was reached, nine months ahead of schedule. By June 30, 2023, SU should be fully divested from fossil fuels. To learn more about divestment, SU's process and divestment timeline, and see the Divestment Case Study Webpage here.

 

How You Can Reduce Your Footprint

Want to reduce your own carbon footprint? Learn more at our Sustainable Living and Sustainable Living on Campus pages!

Through independent research and help from Seattle U professors, I was able to make a comprehensive calculator for the carbon emissions by the Tasar World Championships held in Seattle this year. The Tasar World Championship is a boat race where sailors from all over the world compete; it is also one of many international regattas which is looking to lower its carbon footprint. This calculator is looking at the equivalent CO2 emissions for the boat race itself, the many functions held over the period of the race, and the travel for the contestants and judges. For this event, a majority of carbon emissions will result from international plane travel, or scope 3 emissions. Carbon emissions are broken down into scopes for greenhouse gas accounting. Scope 1 encapsulates the direct emissions for any owned assets (like facilities or equipment), while scope 2 includes the indirect emissions for purchased energy (like heating and cooling). Scope 3 can include any other direct emissions generated by a third party involved in a company/event (including plane or car travel to the event). This calculator does not include scope 2 emissions because it has been developed for the event in Seattle, which uses hydroelectric power. Knowing the total amount of CO2 equivalents used in the race can give the organizers an idea of how many carbon offsets to buy in order to support companies which are giving back to the planet. Additionally, this calculator can be modified and used for future Tasar World Championships to hopefully create a standard of clean regattas in the future.