Vanderbilt University completes first greenhouse gas inventory, adopts commitment statement

An Environmental Commitment Statement has been adopted by Vanderbilt, and the university has completed its first greenhouse gas inventory.

The statement highlights the major areas of Vanderbilt’s environmental commitment. It affirms Vanderbilt’s dedication to strive for the highest standards of sustainability through a process of environmental responsibility and accountability.

Vanderbilt also will promote lifelong learning about sustainability best practices for the benefit of the Vanderbilt community. The statement includes Vanderbilt’s assurance that it will consistently implement, monitor, evaluate and improve processes. For the complete statement, visit

In addition to releasing the commitment statement, a crucial first step in evaluating the university’s sustainability was conducting Vanderbilt’s first greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory.

“This first inventory provides a baseline of detailed information to help stakeholders make informed decisions to determine reduction strategies and compare future changes in greenhouse gas emissions on campus,” said Judson Newbern, deputy vice chancellor for facilities and environmental affairs.

“Vanderbilt is one of a small percentage of schools that have undertaken the completion of a GHG inventory and made it publicly available. Additionally, most university greenhouse gas inventory reports do not include research and/or patient care activity, making Vanderbilt’s report more comprehensive than most,” Newbern said. “Subsequent annual calculations of emissions will be conducted in the future to measure progress, which will be made publicly available.”

Even before the university’s greenhouse gas inventory was completed, the university had begun steps to lessen the university’s impact on the environment.

During the baseline period of 2005-2007, the average annual greenhouse gas emissions produced by academic, research and patient care areas on the university’s 330-acre campus amounted to an estimated 487,000 MTCO2E (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). Academic and research areas accounted for approximately 302,000 MTCO2E, or 62 percent, of average yearly greenhouse gas emissions; the remaining 38 percent, or approximately 185,000 MTCO2E, are attributable to patient care areas.

Environmental initiatives already implemented that are expected to further reduce the next GHG inventory report include:

• A commitment to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building practices. Seven buildings at The Commons have received either gold or silver LEED certification, and green building principles also were used in the renovation of One Hundred Oaks medical facilities.
• ThinkOne, a campus-wide energy conservation campaign focused on energy-saving behaviors that individuals can take to reduce Vanderbilt’s energy consumption (
• Water and lighting retrofits, including the recent retrofit of the lighting system at Memorial Gym resulting in an 18 percent reduction in lighting energy consumption.
• Improvements to commuter programs, including a ride match website, the launch of several van pools and the arrival of Zipcars on campus.
• The Night Set Back program to drastically adjust thermostats in the hours a building is not in use.

The major sources of emissions at Vanderbilt include purchased electricity (45 percent); coal use at the on-campus co-generation power plant (24 percent); commuter travel (19 percent); and natural gas use at the on-campus co-generation power plant (8 percent).

“These major sources present the most significant opportunities for improvements in Vanderbilt’s current carbon footprint,” said Andrea George, director of the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO). “Suggestions on how the university community can take steps to reduce our energy consumption can be found at Vanderbilt’s ThinkOne website. Specific energy conservation information for patient care areas, research areas, offices and classrooms, and residence halls can also be found at ThinkOne and are a significant, no-cost first step in reducing Vanderbilt’s carbon footprint.”

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and look forward to continuing improvement,” commented Mark Petty, assistant vice chancellor for plant operations. “We also gratefully acknowledge the departments that worked on making this possible: the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office, the Department of Plant Operations, Campus Planning and Construction and the Division of Public Affairs.”

The Vanderbilt University Environmental Commitment Statement was endorsed by the Faculty Senate, the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Environmental Health and Safety Oversight Committee, the Vanderbilt Student Government, the student organization Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility, the University Staff Advisory Council and the Medical Center Staff Advisory Council.

The greenhouse gas inventory was conducted by the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office with the collaboration of Plant Operations and Campus Planning and Construction. The standardized publicly-available greenhouse gas calculator, called the “Clean Air-Cool Planet Campus Calculator” for universities, was used. The inventory took three months to complete. The executive summary and complete report can be read online at

Media contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS