USU’s Sustainability Council focuses carbon reduction efforts on local emissions and air quality problems. Air and vehicular travel by students, staff, and faculty comprises nearly one-fifth of USU's greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in 2019 USU travelers logged approximately 17 million miles in air travel, over 4 million miles in university vehicles, and over 2.5 million miles in personal vehicles for university business. Commuters traveled many more miles going to and from school and work.
What can we do about our transportation emissions?
The Council started the Commuter Club to help people choose low-carbon options such as, walking, busing, biking, and carpooling, when possible. For travel by airplanes and automobiles, USU has a local carbon offset fund. On travel forms, travelers can voluntarily check a box to deduct $10 from their travel reimbursement as a tax-exempt donation to projects that reduce USU’s greenhouse gases. Commuters can choose a monthly contribution from this site.
If you have contributed to this fund, thank you for your generosity. Please continue to support our work in reducing emissions at USU.
Which projects do carbon offset donations support?
The carbon offset funds have supported several different projects, including landscape equipment, projects through a mini-grant program, and Zimride rideshare. Carbon offset funds also enable the Sustainability Council to support other programs and projects, including:
- USU Commuter Club launched in 2016 to link low-carbon commuters with transportation options.
- Drive Electric Northern Utah program has facilitated approximately 100 sign-ups and 20 electric vehicle purchases.
- Energy Wars expanded from USU Housing to academic buildings to encourage energy efficiency across campus.
Isn't the donation mandatory now?
President Cockett implemented a plan to charge a $10 offset on round-trip flights with a phase in plan beginning in FY21. At the end of the fiscal year, the index that paid the fee will be “reimbursed” by the President for those expenses. Each year departments will have the option to decrease travel or pay a greater portion of the $10 fee. This fee is not a donation and will go to a fund managed by the vice president for business and finance. Individuals may still decide whether to contribute to the carbon offset fund.
In 2012, the Sustainability Council created an opportunity for faculty and staff to contribute to offset USU’s carbon. The new carbon offset program provided an easy means for USU travelers to donate to on-campus projects to reduce USU’s carbon emissions. The donation is voluntary and is optional. So far, the fund has raised over $12,000. The first project funded was a new electronic fuel injection mower, 20% more efficient than a conventional engine.
In 2013, the funds supported student and employees' ideas for air quality improvement and greenhouse gas reduction through Carbon Offset Grants. The following projects were funded:
- Utah Conservation Corps received $2,500 toward efficiency renovations for the "Blue Goes Green House."
- Parking & Transportation received $500 for research and development of a "red air" day shuttle.
- Art for Air, an interactive student art project, received $1,400. See artforair.blogspot.com.
In 2014, the funds were committed to a contract with Zimride to provide a rideshare service for the campus community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced through transportation. Rideshare is a secure online program that allows individuals to connect to share rides. USU saved an estimated 150,000 lbs. CO2 2015-2016. Rideshare also has other benefits—providing affordable transportation, optimizing carpooling connections, and reducing congestion and parking demand.
Due to changes in transportation due to COVID-19, Zimride was suspended in December 2020. Donations to the carbon offset fund continue to assist with reducing carbon emissions by contributing to priorities in the GHG Reduction Report.
We owe a great deal of thanks to Sharyn Bradfield (Manager of Finance Systems) and Megan Maples (Travel Lead) in the USU Controllers’ Office and Ryan Merrill (Database Administrator) in USU’s Information Technology Office. They’re the ones who figured out how to make the program operational on the Travel forms.