UT-Austin produced more than 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2017-2018 fiscal year, report says

Laura Morales

After including “supply chain emissions,” a report updated last week by the Office of Sustainability shows how many metric tons of carbon dioxide was recently produced by the University.

According to the 2019 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report update, the University produced 1,076,486 metric tons of carbon dioxide during the 2017-2018 fiscal year compared to 612,000 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. For the first time, the metric tons of carbon dioxide includes “supply chain emissions,” which accounts for emissions made by products and services the University purchases. 

The report also tracks emissions from University power plants, purchased electricity, transportation emissions and waste treatment emissions. Jim Walker, director of the Office of Sustainability, said the study will help the University understand its true environmental impact.

“We want to look at the particular practices a particular supplier uses to produce something,” Walker said. “We are looking to favor companies that have better climate practices. The trick there is balancing what makes financial sense with environmental responsivity.” 

The Carl J. Eckhardt Combined Heating and Power Complex, the campus power plant, produced 227,000 metric tons of carbon in 2018, which is up 10,000 tons from 2014, according to the report. Walker said University Utilities and Energy Management has won awards for micro-grid efficiency, but is working with the Office of Sustainability to make the buildings on campus more energy efficient.


Veronica Trevino, media manager for Financial and Administrative Services Communications, said Utilities and Energy Management set a goal in 2011 to reduce campus energy consumption 20% by 2020. The main campus achieved 20.8% energy reduction as of 2018, according to their website. 

Trevino said Utilities and Energy Management also has set a 2% Energy Utilization Index reduction goal, which is a measure of the total energy consumed during the cooling or heating of a building.

“The goal was defined by the Energy Management and Optimization team within UEM in 2017 to offset projected campus growth through improving energy use in existing building spaces, operations and processes,” Trevino said.

Chris Hendrickson, one of the contributors to the assessment model, said unlike others, the model used by the office assesess the emissions generated by all components that go into making a product, as opposed to just the emissions from the product itself.

“The supply chain is captured by dividing the economy into many sectors and then tracing all the inter-sector transactions,” Henrickson said. “Unlike manually constructed supply chains, which are typically pruned, EIO ends up with all the supply chain transactions.”

Walker said the Office of Sustainability is looking to work with individual units of the campus to improve their consumer practice as part of the new master plan, which they are planning to update next semester. Walker said they will be using the findings in the report to shape the energy goals.

“We are updating the Sustainability Master Plan next semester,” Walker said. “Part of that conversation will include, ‘Do individual units across campus want to look at their purchasing activity and see where they can be environmentally friendly?’”