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Carbon Inventory: Tracking GHGs

Why Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

We track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as part of our work here at UMass Lowell, which allows us to become more sustainable in several ways. For example:

  • It allows us to see whether our actions from year to year (such as switching to alternative energy sources or getting more people to take alternative forms of transportation) actually reduce our emissions,
  • It allows us to identify the "scopes" where we emit the most greenhouse gases, so that we can prioritize our efforts to address those key areas of emissions, and
  • It allows us to see how much trees on campus and other "carbon sinks" take carbon dioxide out of the air.

All in all, it allows us to much more effectively and efficiently reduce our net emissions here at UMass Lowell!

How It Works

In order to track our emissions, we use a program named SIMAP (Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform). SIMAP is run by the University of New Hampshire, and is able to track both carbon emissions (which are the majority of our greenhouse gas emissions) and nitrogen pollution.

SIMAP measures carbon emissions in terms of three “scopes”:

  • Scope 1:
    • On-campus stationary sources
    • Direct transportation sources
    • Refrigerants & chemicals
    • Agriculture sources: fertilizer and animals
  • Scope 2:
    • Electricity, steam, chilled water
  • Scope 3:
    • Commuting
    • Directly financed outsourced travel; Study abroad; Student travel to/from home
    • Solid waste
    • Wastewater
    • Paper
    • Food purchases

SIMAP also allows for sinks (i.e. trees or composting) and offsets (such as purchasing carbon credits) to be factored into the equation to determine our net carbon emissions. This information is submitted for AASHE STARS Greenhouse Gas reporting, which helps to keep a record of how well we are doing and the steps we still have ahead of us in the future. We are thus working to minimize emissions from the sources listed in the scopes and maximize our sinks and offsets, to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050!

What About Towns or Cities?

Many towns and cities (such as Somerville, Mass.) are using the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories (GPC).

The GPC was developed by the World Resources Institute, ICLEI, C40 Cities, the World Bank and other leading organizations to provide transparency and accountability in the emissions inventorying process.