By UW Sustainability | Mar 11, 2024
UW Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The University of Washington has released a new Greenhouse Gas Inventory, capturing the full scope of the University’s emissions for the first time.

This marks the UW’s first comprehensive inventory of its direct emissions since 2005 and the first time ever the University has quantified the emissions connected to our purchased goods and services. The report provides a new understanding of the full picture of the UW’s emissions, and will inform the University’s actions as it works toward emission reduction targets across sectors, campuses and facilities. The UW aspires to be carbon neutral across all emission categories by 2050 and is prioritizing direct emissions reduction in our operations.

The inventory measures emissions from 2022 and 2019 to capture data before and after the COVID-19 pandemic response and compares those emissions to a baseline year of 2005. It covers all three UW campuses and breaks out the emissions of three major self-sustaining units: UW Medicine, Intercollegiate Athletics and Housing & Food Services.

In 2022, the University of Washington’s emissions totaled approximately 527,510 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), which is an 11% increase over the 2005 baseline. Purchased goods and services make up the largest source, representing approximately 64% of our emissions in 2022.

The second largest source is from emissions generated on campus from fossil fuel combustion, at approximately 18.5%. Most of the fossil fuel emissions come from the Power Plant on the Seattle campus. The plant burns natural gas to create steam, which is used to heat the majority of campus buildings. The UW’s Energy Transformation program will electrify campus heating and transition the Power Plant to clean energy, with the goal of eliminating 80% of Power Plant emissions from fossil fuels by 2035.

Other significant categories of emissions are air travel (6.3% of 2022 emissions) and commuting to and from campus by students, faculty and staff (5.7%).

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and this inventory provides important information for us to make more informed decisions about where we can be most impactful as we work towards our emissions reduction goal,” said UW Sustainability Director Lisa Dulude. “Now we know that the goods and services that UW purchases is our largest source of emissions, and the work ahead of us is to better understand this data and identify the areas of opportunity.”

The UW is taking assertive steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions with urgency. Along with the Energy Transformation program. UW Transportation Services is working to electrify the UW vehicle fleet and expects to be fully electric by 2030.

Emissions associated with building construction and renovation will be reduced under UW’s new Green Building Standard, which will be finalized in spring 2024. The new standard sets specific targets for operational emissions (such as energy use and water) and embodied emissions (such as materials used in construction). It also prohibits the use of new fossil fuels in buildings and construction.

The new information gained in the emissions inventory is critical to updating and implementing the UW’s Sustainability Action Plan. UW Sustainability will continue to work with partners across the University to identify strategies and actions to reduce emissions as part of the process for updating the plan.

See the full inventory