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Sustainability Tracking & Metrics

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Vanderbilt has made great strides in managing its ‘carbon footprint’.

Since 2005:

  • Total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions at VU have decreased by more than 13%.
  • GHG emissions per person have dropped by 26%.
  • Emissions per $1,000 research dollar have decreased by 41%.
  • GHGs emitted per 1000 square feet of building space have dropped over 29%.

More information about Vanderbilt’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions can be found on the SustainVU Greenhouse Gas web page.

Electricity Use

The nature of activities that take place on Vanderbilt’s campus, being highly research oriented and having a major Level 1 Trauma Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, requires that VU be powered by reliable, uninterruptable energy supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, especially in the event of a widespread emergency or loss of power in the Nashville community. Because of the emergency needs required by our Medical Center, Vanderbilt has an on-campus power plant.  Vanderbilt has made great strides in reducing its electricity use to conserve natural resources and save money. Since 2006, electricity use per square foot of building space has decreased more than 4.6%.

Water Use

Since 2006, water consumption at Vanderbilt has dropped by almost 33% – that’s more than 568 million gallons of water that is now saved each year! Water use per square foot of building space has decreased over 40% during this same time period. Major water conservation projects at Vanderbilt include:

  • The majority of restrooms having undergone complete water conservation retrofits, including installation of low-flow faucets and fixtures.
  • Design or renovation of 15 projects on campus that meet requirements for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation.
  • Collection of non-potable groundwater from underground utility tunnels for use in cooling towers at the Vanderbilt power plant and for irrigation on Vanderbilt’s athletic fields. By capturing this water and redirecting it, Vanderbilt has reduced water purchases from Metro Nashville by 50 million gallons a year since 2008.
  • Redirecting condensate water from Vanderbilt’s air conditioning systems to cooling towers, reducing water purchases from Metro Nashville.

More information about Water Conservation can be found on the SustainVU Water Conservation web page.

Natural Gas Use

Vanderbilt’s on-campus plant runs on 100% natural gas after eliminating coal use on campus through the conversion of the plant in November 2014. Vanderbilt’s power plant produces 20% of VU’s electricity and 100% of the steam used on campus and in the Medical Center. Steam is used for 90% of campus heating and 40% of its cooling. The co-generation process is quite efficient: heat, which would otherwise be a wasted byproduct of electricity and steam generation, is used to produce more steam and hot water. The steam can then be used to produce more electricity without having to burn additional fuel.

The on-campus power plant actually reduces Vanderbilt’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20%, or nearly 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) each year, when compared to purchasing 100% of our energy from the available local energy suppliers, such as Nashville Electric Service (NES). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized cogeneration power plants as highly efficient and one of the most environmentally-friendly types of power plants.


Recycling programs at Vanderbilt continue to expand each year, in terms of the volume of material recycled and the range of items collected for recycling.

For more information about Vanderbilt’s Campus and Medical Center recycling programs, please see the SustainVU Waste and Recycling web page.

2014 Recycling:
  • Tons plastic & aluminum recycled: 108
  • Tons of confidential paper shredded & recycled: 1,657
  • Tons of non-confidential paper recycled: 425
  • Tons of cardboard recycled: 1,023
  • Tons of glass recycled: 17
  • Tons of electronics recycled: 84
  • Tons of used light bulbs recycled (fluorescents + other types of bulbs): 4
  • Tons of batteries and ballasts recycled: 13