Wilkes University

Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Colleges and Universities

The purpose of this study was to determine how institution size and local climate affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) was used as a source for data on GHG emissions by 238 colleges and universities. Institutions were distributed among 45 states and included doctorate-granting universities, master's institutions, and baccalaureate colleges. Because colleges and universities contain a mixture of office, classroom, and residential space, the findings of this study may help to predict GHG emissions for schools and other institutions with a similar mix.

If the effects of climate are ignored, annual carbon emissions due to energy consumed on campus plus purchased electricity depend on institution size (see figure) according to the formula



a =0.001621

metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent/square foot

or 0.0241

metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent/square meter


b = 1.1354

Because the exponent b is greater than 1, this means that large institutions have more emissions per unit area than small ones.

Annual greenhouse gas emissions under Scope 1 plus Scope 2 for 235 colleges and unversities in the United States in 2006-2008 as a function of gross building area.

For  methods and more information see:

Fetcher, Ned. 2009.  Effects of climate and institution size on greenhouse gas emissions from colleges and universities in the United States.  Sustainability: The Journal of Record 2:362-367.Abstract and PDF

Talk presented at the 95th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. OOS 12-3: Scaling of greenhouse gas emissions with institution size for colleges and universities in the United States. Ned Fetcher, Wilkes University

For a spreadsheet to estimate greenhouse gas emissions as a function of gross building area, click here.