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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has taken a major step toward carbon neutrality by partnering with Johnson Controls to analyze its current carbon footprint. The University is among the first in the nation to conduct such a comprehensive analysis.

The University is one of four state university campuses charged by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle to become carbon neutral. The carbon footprint survey was designed to help the University develop a clear picture of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by developing a rigorous inventory of emissions from each emissions source.

Combining those emissions into a campus-wide inventory allows the University to determine the most cost-effective way to attain carbon neutrality. According to the carbon footprint study, the University emits 52,647 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually through building energy usage, student and staff commuting, solid waste disposal, fleet fuel consumption, business travel and refrigerant leakage.

“The carbon footprint study is invaluable to us as we seek to better understand how we can get off the fossil-fuel grid in the future,” said Chancellor Richard H. Wells. “Achieving carbon neutrality is a long-term proposition. In order to develop a realistic plan it is necessary to establish a current baseline and to also forecast the likely increase in emissions as the University grows its programs, student body, and facility footprint.”

The next step in the process is for UW Oshkosh to work with Johnson Controls to:

  • Prepare a detailed technical and financial analysis of carbon emission mitigation measures to identify the most cost-effective strategies for achieving emissions reductions;
  • Design specific measure implementation and funding mechanisms;
  • Develop budgets that are ample for successful program implementation, leading to achievement of the GHG mitigation goal.

Preliminary recommendations suggest that the University establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built at least to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard and adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring the purchase of Energy Star-certified products in all areas where such ratings exist.

“With all the discussion around sustainability, I appreciate Johnson Controls’ assistance in developing an action plan with defined goals that will allow us to deliver results,” said Tom Sonnleitner, chief financial officer.

The carbon footprint analysis is just one component of UW Oshkosh’s efforts to be more sustainable. In 2002 the University became one of the first to endorse the Earth Charter — an international declaration of interdependence that outlines fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society for the 21st century.

In 2003, UW Oshkosh became the first Wisconsin university to join the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership by agreeing to purchase at least 3 percent of its energy from renewable sources, making it at the time the largest purchaser of green energy in Wisconsin. As a result, the University won an EPA Green Power Purchase Award and was listed by the EPA as an Energy Star Case Study. The University also received the 2003 EPA Leadership Award — the 11th U.S. university to receive the EPA’s highest leadership award. In 2004, UW Oshkosh won a National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Recognition Award for its campus environmental audit and in 2005, the university received a second Energy Star Award from the EPA.

In 2008, the University adopted a policy to purchase cage-free eggs and unveiled its Campus Sustainability Plan, which guides its efforts to continue as a national leader in responsible environmental stewardship, education, outreach and research. The University also became a Fair Trade University in 2008.

Additionally, UW Oshkosh is one of only 41 universities in the United States listed on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Web site as a large purchaser of renewable energy.

To view the case study online, click here.