Vanderbilt greenhouse gas emissions drop 19 percent in two years, new sustainability report shows
Vanderbilt University’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 19 percent overall and 23 percent per square foot since fiscal year 2020, according to the latest annual sustainability report released today by FutureVU Sustainability in the Division of Administration. The findings are among several highlights that showcase the Vanderbilt community’s efforts to support the university’s overall sustainability goals.
“This new report shows the many different ways the Vanderbilt community is making real progress in reducing our footprint,” Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain said. “To reach our sustainability goals requires a combination of large, campuswide initiatives as well as small, individual decisions. We each have a role to play, and that collaborative effort shines through in the latest report.”
In 2021, Vanderbilt announced a collaboration with the nonprofit organization Climate Vault that allowed the university to address the full extent of its carbon footprint for FY20 and FY21, achieving carbon neutrality decades ahead of its initial goal of the year 2050. As Vanderbilt continues to prioritize carbon neutrality, the annual sustainability report provides a means for measuring progress each year toward reducing campus emissions.
“The achievements highlighted in this report reflect the work of the entire campus community, faculty, staff and students alike,” said Andrea George, assistant vice chancellor for environmental health, safety and sustainability. “Despite significant challenges during the COVID pandemic, we made impressive strides during the last two years. The collective effort of the entire Vanderbilt community can continue to build on this progress.”
The university’s greenhouse gas emissions are split among three primary sources: 54 percent from on-campus natural gas; 27 percent from electricity purchased from Nashville Electric Service; and 19 percent from commuting, air travel, recycling and waste disposal. The report found that Vanderbilt made significant progress in reducing emissions from commuting and air travel during the past two years, thanks to the transition to hybrid and remote work and the implementation of MoveVU, the university’s strategic transportation and mobility program. Compared to FY20 data, commuting emissions this past fiscal year were 58 percent lower. Meanwhile, air travel emissions were down 33 percent over the same time period.
Also highlighted in the report are Vanderbilt’s ongoing efforts to power its campus entirely through renewable energy. In January 2022, the university broke ground on a landmark project in Bedford County, Tennessee, which will allow it to procure off-site, large-scale solar energy. Upon completion, the 35-megawatt Vanderbilt I Solar Farm—the result of a forward-thinking partnership among the university, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Nashville Electric Service and Silicon Ranch Corp.—will mitigate approximately 70 percent of Vanderbilt’s annual indirect greenhouse gas emissions.
Another area of emphasis in the report is Vanderbilt’s commitment to waste reduction. In fall 2022, Vanderbilt Campus Dining partnered with Fill it Forward, a Certified B Corp., to reduce the university’s dependence on disposable to-go containers. With the Fill it Forward app, students can rent and return reusable food containers at all residential dining halls while also tracking the impact of their personal reusable bottles. The reusable to-go containers have replaced the compostable to-go containers that were previously available in dining facilities.
To learn more about these and other areas of progress in sustainability on campus, view the FY22 Sustainability Report.