Seattle University is significantly reducing its carbon footprint by becoming the first commercial customer to offset 100 percent of its natural gas usage under Puget Sound Energy’s recently launched Carbon Balance Program. The offsets are being created at a Washington dairy farm that captures methane gas released by manure and then burns it in an on-site generator to produce electricity.
The announcement follows two recent validations of Seattle University’s strong sustainability ethic. In April, the Princeton Review identified SU as one of the nation’s greenest universities, and last month, the Albers School of Business and Economics was ranked fourth in the nation in sustainability.
The carbon offset purchases, which began May 1, will have the effect of removing 6.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, the equivalent of eliminating emissions from 500 homes for one year.
“Seattle University is leading by example,” said Cal Shirley, PSE vice president of Energy Efficiency Services. “The university is demonstrating that, individually, we can choose to make a positive difference for our planet.”
As a signatory to the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, Seattle University has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions from operations, business air travel and commuters 51 percent by 2035. The commitment also requires the university to increase the presence of sustainability and climate change in SU’s curricular and co-curricular activities and to share its sustainability-related knowledge with others. The strategies to achieve these goals are described in SU’s Climate Action Plan.
Approximately 20 percent of SU’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from energy consumption in campus buildings. With steam being phased out as a heating source, natural gas will soon account for 96 percent of all building-related emissions. This means that by offsetting 100 percent of its natural gas emissions the university is effectively reducing its overall emissions by approximately 19 percent.
Other leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions at SU are those generated by air travel (approximately 42 percent) and commuting (approximately 36 percent).