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WKU Office of Sustainability - Climate

Big Red's Carbon Footprint -

Western Kentucky University Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impacts that our activities have on the environment, and in particular, climate change. We can measure our personal carbon footprint fairly easily, using an online calculator or carbon footprint tool. Our personal carbon footprint is impacted by the many choices we make in our daily lives, like the method of transportation we use, how much and what kind of energy we use in our homes, the foods we eat, and what we buy and throw away.

Specifically, a carbon footprint is a measurement of all greenhouse gases we produce, expressed as metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT eCO2). A carbon footprint can be assessed by performing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. For an organization such as a university, it is much the same as for an individual; WKU's carbon footprint is influenced by the type and amount of energy we use, the things we buy, our transportation uses, and what we throw away. Once our emissions inventory is determined, we can develop a strategy for reducing our carbon footprint.

Conducting a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory for a university campus is a big endeavor. Data must be collected and interpreted for everything from energy use to air miles traveled for university business to type and amount of paper purchased to how many cows and horses we have!

Presently, we have completed the university greenhouse gas emission inventory for Scope 1 sources, which include on-site combustion of fossil fuels, such as the coal and natural gas burned for heat and fuel used in vehicle motors, and for Scope 2 sources, which include purchased electricity. The inventory for Scope 3 sources is in progress. Scope 3 includes: faculty, staff and student commuting and air travel emissions and emissions associated with solid waste and waste water treatment, among many other things.

The Office of Sustainability is pleased to report the preliminary results of our campus carbon footprint. Please note that these are preliminary estimates based on imperfect and limited data. The results are for the 2009 calendar year and are limited to the main campus and WKU Farm.

Overall, we estimate that our 2009 emissions total for Scope 1 and 2 sources:energy (heat, cooling, and electricity), agricultural practices (livestock and fertilizer use) and campus transportation fleet to be just under 65,000 MT eCO2.

Scope 3 emissions thus far measured include faculty, staff, and student commuting, as determined by a commuting trends survey conducted last spring, and solid waste. For campus commuters, emissions are estimated to be 15,342 MT eCO2. Emissions resulting from solid waste are estimated 2,145 MT eCO2.

These results reveal some interesting results. First, purchased electricity (scope 2) comprises 72% of our carbon footprint (see chart below). Electricity use is to a large extent controllable, with huge potential for conservation and efficiency improvements, so reducing this part of our carbon footprint is something we can all work on.

carbon footprint graphs

Secondly, commuting to and from campus is a large component of our overall footprint. This too is something that we can improve by making choices such as using Parking and Transportation Services Ridesharing program or riding a bike to campus. We are working on many other ways to reduce our campus carbon footprint, such as reducing solid waste (reduce, reuse, recycle!) and converting the Central Steam Plant heating fuel from coal to natural gas.

As we continue to study our campus carbon footprint, we will better learn which actions and choices make the most sense and gain insight as to how to be a more sustainable WKU. We encourage you to measure your own carbon footprint to learn how you can live more sustainably too.

What are we doing to reduce our GHG emissions?


  • Reducing our energy use. 

Since 2005, WKU has reduced main campus electricity use by more than 12% through conservation and efficiency measures. And we expect continued reductions, even in light of a growing campus. Learn more about how we're using less and doing more on the Energy page.


  • Replacing coal use for heat with cleaner natural gas.

In 2011, WKU said goodbye to coal, decomissioning both of the Central  Steam Plant coal boilers and firing up the efficient new natural gas boilers. The project was funded entirely through reinvestment of savings from conservation and efficiency efforts.


  • Building greener buildings.

WKU has committed to building to (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) LEED standards for all new buildings and renovations. The first LEED building, Gary Ransdell Hall, earned LEED Gold certification in fall 2011. Other LEED certified buildings include the Music Hall and the Honors College and International Center building.


  •  Reducing solid waste.

A constantly improving recycling and re-use program is helping to reduce solid waste at WKU. Our current rate of diversion from the landfill is 12% and rising, with a goal to divert 35% by 2015. 


  • Using cleaner fuels for transportation and grounds equipment.

The WKU shuttles run 5% biodiesel and the grounds maintenance equipment has been updated to high efficiency lower emissions models. Research into alternative vehicles is ongoing, in hopes of finding viable options for the university fleet.

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 Last Modified 6/12/17