Utah State University has introduced a new Carbon Offset Program. The program is an effort to support USU’s movement toward sustainability by reducing its carbon footprint.
The program provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to contribute to the Carbon Offset Travel Fund to help mitigate the impact of their university-related travel.
The program gives USU faculty and staff the opportunity to donate $10 to the university’s Carbon Offset Travel Fund by voluntarily deferring part of their travel reimbursement. A check off box has been added to the existing form to make it easy for users to donate.
The impetus for the drive towards sustainability comes from President Albrecht’s signing of the American College and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007. USU was the first university in Utah to sign the commitment. Upon signing, participating colleges and universities pledged to implement plans in pursuit of climate neutrality.
“A large proportion of our carbon emissions is due to air and automobile travel by staff and faculty on university business trips,” said Nat Frazer, chairman of the USU Sustainability Council. “For example, last year USU travelers logged over 17 million miles in air travel and over 7 million miles by car. Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of USU’s carbon emissions are due to faculty, staff and students travelling on university business.”
Frazer said several universities are achieving net carbon reductions by purchasing carbon offsets from other organizations that implement carbon sequestration programs. A college in Maine claims it has achieved zero net carbon emissions by purchasing carbon offsets in Oregon. USU’s Sustainability Council decided early on that it would work to reduce carbon emissions locally rather than purchase “carbon credits” from some distant location.
“Given the air quality problems we sometimes see in Cache Valley, we’d like to help lower emissions right here at home,” said Frazer. “As a land-grant university, we have also always been committed to sustainability so it is our responsibility to manage environmental, social and economic sustainability programs with specific goals and objectives.”
This year, funds will be used to lower carbon emissions from USU’s grounds-keeping operations which might include replacing smaller gasoline-powered lawnmowers with rechargeable electric mowers. Electric mowers not only reduce carbon emissions; they also require much less maintenance than gasoline-powered mowers. Another option is to replace large gasoline-powered riding mowers with propane-powered models. Propane models emit less carbon and also have lower operating costs.
Later this spring, USU’s Sustainability Council will solicit additional ideas from faculty and staff on how to best use future funds generated by the Carbon Offset Program to further reduce USU’s carbon footprint.
The new program was designed and built by Sharyn Bradfield, manager of finance systems, Megan Maples, travel lead, in the USU Controllers’ Office, and Ryan Merrill database administrator in USU’s Information Technology Office. Bradfield said that they wanted to keep the process simple and easy for participants to use.
“All they have to do to donate is simply check a box. We take care of the rest,” said Bradfield.
When completing travel reimbursement forms, travelers will be able to check a box indicating their intent to deduct $10 from their reimbursement check as a tax-exempt donation to the fund. The check off is entirely voluntary and is optional each time an individual submits a form for travel reimbursement. Based on previous travel data, the fund has a potential to collect more than $50,000 per year.
Bradfield is proud to have developed a way to make a positive impact that benefits the community in Cache Valley. She and Frazer both agree that the program is innovative and will serve as a model for other universities to follow.
The program began January 23, 2012.
For more information about the Carbon Offset Program, visit the website.
Contact: Nat Frazer, (435) 797-2452, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Paige Pagnucco, 435-797-1429, email@example.com