UBC Undergraduate Research

Fleets and Flights : a greenhouse gas pilot study of UBC Okanagan Wilhelm, Micah Dominique


In an effort to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global climate warming, the government of British Columbia has passed legislation that requires colleges, universities and other public sector organizations to be carbon neutral by 2010. To comply with this bill, the University of British Columbia must conduct a comprehensive internal GHG audit to quantify the carbon footprint of the institution. A significant portion of this carbon footprint results from the use of fossil fuel for transportation by faculty and staff on behalf of the university for such activities as research, teaching and service. A study of the GHG emissions associated with institutional air and ground travel done on behalf of the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) is required to establish a GHG baseline for future audits. Institutional travel includes all travel done by UBCO-owned or leased fleet vehicles (Scope 1 emissions) and travel done in vehicles or airplanes not owned or controlled by UBCO (Scope 3 emissions). Scope 1 and 3 data from UBCO were not available to the UBC Sustainability Office for the 2006 GHG audit. The absence of these data can be attributed to a lack in precedence of GHG recording and reporting protocol at UBCO. Since these data were not readily available, I conducted a pilot study to assess the carbon footprint associated with the use of fleet vehicles and a portion of the institutional travel of UBCO. This report summarizes the study results as well as recommendations for new GHG reporting protocols, which will serve to improve the response rate for campus-wide GHG audits in the future. Data were collected by a voluntary survey distributed via internal email to a sample size of 157 faculty, staff and graduate students from academic units 1, 2 and 3 of the IK Barber School of Arts and Sciences. Data about their institutional ground and air-travel from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008 were collected. Data from Athletics travel, use of UBC-owned research vehicles, security vehicles, campus golf carts and maintenance equipment were collected directly from their respective department records. A survey response rate of 11% from staff, faculty and graduate students was obtained. Based on the available information, the total mass of Scope 1 emissions for the one-year period was 41,537 kg CO₂ eq. Scope 1 emissions account for 44% of the total GHG emissions produced as a result of institutional travel reported by participants at UBCO. The total mass of Scope 3 emissions from these two areas was 53,387 kg CO₂ eq. Scope 3 emissions account for 56% of the total GHG emissions produced as a result of reported UBCO institutional travel.[Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”]

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