Carbon Footprint

Campus Energy Use

With over 30 main campus buildings using steam and electricity, 2,300 residential students, and collaborative work across the globe, Michigan Tech is an energy-intensive organization. In fiscal year 2021, we used more than 38 million kilowatt hours of electricity and over 300,000 MMbtus of natural gas, resulting in an annual energy expenditure of $4.5M.

Our Carbon Footprint

Apart from the cost of utilities, a serious implication of our energy use is that it results in the emission of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the atmosphere. A team of students in our Green Campus Enterprise keeps track of our global warming emissions by measuring our total carbon footprint each year. In fiscal year 2021, Michigan Tech generated 42,435 Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. That is roughly equivalent to the total carbon footprint of 2,700 average individuals in the US, or 10,500 average individuals globally.

The pie chart below shows the major sources of Michigan Tech’s carbon emissions in fiscal year 2021, the most recent data available. Due to travel restrictions stemming from COVID-19, sponsored travel (mostly air travel) and commuting are significantly lower than a typical year. It is important to note, however, that even in a typical year, around 75% of our total greenhouse gas emissions stems from powering our campus buildings through purchased electricity and our on campus stationary sources such as our central heating plant and other small boilers.

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*The pie chart includes the renewable energy credits that we purchase through our utility, which reduce the emissions associated with our purchased electricity by nearly 50%.

Emission Trends

The bar graph below shows the trends in Michigan Tech’s carbon emissions over time. Controlling for COVID-related travel decreases, Michigan Tech’s carbon footprint in 2021 was 25% lower than it was in 2016. The declining trend is primarily due to renewable energy credit purchases that began at the very end of 2017, as well as an incremental increase in the amount of renewable energy feeding into our electricity grid over time. Both of those impacts are visible in the orange bars tracking our electricity related emissions below. The variability stems from change in weather, particularly for heat in winter. COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 impacted commuting and air (sponsored) travel, but we expect that they will rebound to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

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How we manage for climate and energy 

Jointly managing our energy and carbon performance is smart business.  Facilities professionals have completed many energy savings projects in campus buildings, ranging from lighting upgrades to ventilation and retro commissioning projects. Those efforts have driven down both our utilities costs and our greenhouse gas emissions. Since near the end of fiscal year 2017, Michigan Tech has purchased renewable energy credits (RECs) for 50% of our electricity use. Our REC purchases are on a long term contract with Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative, which allows the utility to invest in additional renewable energy production, and serves to reduce Michigan Tech’s total carbon footprint by more that 20%.  Controlling for the COVID-related travel decreases, Michigan Tech’s carbon footprint in 2021 was 25% lower than it was in 2016. 

See our Climate and Energy pages for more information on how we are reducing our energy use and carbon footprint.