Environmental Science and Policy
L. David Smith
Smith College does not account for its indirect greenhouse gas emissions, which prevents the institution from effectively strategizing to reduce its carbon footprint. Indirect greenhouse gas emissions, more commonly referred to as Scope 3 emissions, lie in the supply chain as they reflect the carbon footprint of goods and services purchased to support an entity’s operation. In other words, Scope 3 emissions reflect the emissions generated from extraction to transport, and finally to waste disposal. According to our findings, these emissions represent as much as 80% of its carbon footprint and can be significantly reduced through simple changes. With detailed information on the relative size and scale of emission-generating activities, Smith can better manage risks carbon-related policies may pose by implementing changes to either reduce consumption of certain goods and services, or substitute them with ones less carbon-intensive. Few institutions of higher education have completed an analysis of their Scope 3 emissions because of limited data, literature, and carbon emission calculators. Our study attempts to chip away at this puzzle by exposing the impacts of three categories of purchased goods, and provide the stepping stones for future undertakings. We gathered data from Fiscal year 2016 for three purchasing categories: food, paper, and computers. Using calculators that estimate the materials, energy resources, and subsequent carbon emissions associated with the dollar value or quantity purchased of a good, we were able to estimate the total MTCO2e for each respectively. Following the data collection and calculation phase, we propose potential strategies to relevant stakeholders. We estimate that Smith’s total carbon emissions in 2016 are 133,000 MTCO 2 e. Therefore Scope 3 is about 107,986 MTCO 2 e, roughly 80 percent of Smith’s total emissions (See Figure 1). $4,044,000 of food has a carbon footprint of 3,599 MTCO 2 e and represents about 3 percent of total Scope 3 emissions. Purchasing $59,800 worth of 30% recycled paper indirectly emits 44 MTCO 2 e, whereas the same dollars spent on 100% recycled paper reduces emissions by approximately 30%. 667 purchased computers in 2016 added an additional 105 MTCO 2 e to Scope 3 emissions, however we find that donating computers reduces emissions by 20% by diverting them from the recycling stream. The significance of our research is rooted in the fact that the mission of the college to prepare women for the world does not have to be compromised in order to be sustainable. Reducing air travel miles and promoting study abroad is not something to undertake, when there is great promise in changing where and what we source, and how we dispose purchased goods.
©2017 Angelica Radke
Radke, Angelica, "Assessing Smith College’s Unaccounted Greenhouse Gas Emissions" (2017). Other Projects. 29.