The Office of Sustainability coordinates with campus stakeholders to participate and publish reports related to sustainability progress on campus. These various reports mark UMBC’s successes and outline where the university needs to increase efforts. The campus provides transparency and diligent data accuracy while streamlining the reporting to focus on the most material and measurable aspects of our work.
The President’s Climate Leadership Commitment, signed in 2007, integrates carbon neutrality with climate resilience and provides a systems approach to mitigating and adapting to a changing climate. Under this commitment, UMBC is required to maintain and update a Climate Action Plan and to annually report the university’s greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions to the reporting platform. This annual reporting effort is conducted by The Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management in collaboration with the Climate Action Steering Committee.
The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, established in 2019, are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Rankings are based upon carefully calibrated indicators to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons across three broad areas: research, outreach, and stewardship. UMBC’s rankings indicate that the university is considered a global leader in social and economic impact. This annual reporting effort is conducted by Institutional Research, Analysis & Decision Support (IRADS) with support from the Office of Sustainability.
UMBC participated in its first AASHE sustainability tracking, assessment, and rating system (STARS) report in early 2020 in which UMBC earned a Silver rating. STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. The STARS report is valid for three years and the data collected in the report is linked to the US News and World Report Green Colleges Rankings and the Sierra Cool Schools list. The triennial STARS report is conducted by the Office of Sustainability with the support of over 20 different campus stakeholders.
Greenhouse Gas Reporting and Accounting
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are chemical compounds, which allow direct sunlight (energy) to reach the Earth’s surface. Some of the energy is reflected back from the surface into the atmosphere. GHGs “trap” this energy and hold the energy (heat) in the atmosphere. Please visit Second Nature’s reporting platform for UMBC’s GHG Report Summaries.
GHG Inventory Development
All emissions sources at UMBC are annually inventoried and tracked. The emissions for each scope are calculated by multiplying the consumption of the fuel by an Emission Factor (EF) to calculate the mass of each GHG in that fuel source. Those values are multiplied by the associated Global Warming Potential (GWP) to convert all the emissions to a standard unit of measure known as carbon dioxide equivalent (eCO2). All emissions are reported as metric tons of eCO2 (MTeCO2). UMBC conducts our inventory utilizing the SIMAP Carbon Calculator.
Scope 1: Direct Emissions produced from sources on campus, which UMBC has direct control over.
- Includes the combustion of fuels (e.g. natural gas, fuel oil, etc) and the management of refrigerants.
Scope 2: Indirect Emissions produced from the consumption of purchased electricity.
- Includes emissions associated with the generation of electricity.
Scope 3: Other Indirect Emissions produced from activities associated with UMBC but directly owned or controlled by UMBC.
- Includes commuter emissions, UMBC sponsored air travel, landfilling of municipal solid waste.
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)
A renewable energy certificate, or REC, is a market-based instrument that represents the property rights to the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource. Because the physical electricity we receive through the utility grid says nothing of its origin or how it was generated, RECs play an important role in accounting, tracking, and assigning ownership to renewable electricity generation and use. On a shared grid, whether from on-site or off-site resources, RECs are the instrument that electricity consumers must use to substantiate renewable electricity use claims.
Both offsets and RECs represent the environmental benefits of certain actions that can help mitigate GHG emissions. Offsets represent a metric ton of emissions avoided or reduced; RECs represent attributes of 1 MWh renewable electricity generation. Offsets and RECs, however, are fundamentally different instruments with different impacts, representing different criteria for qualification and crediting in the context of inventory or emissions footprint. For additional information, please see the US EPA’s Offsets and RECs: What’s the Difference? guidance document.