UNC Greensboro


Greenhouse Gases

Although global greenhouse gas emissions dipped 5.8 percent in 2020, emissions have since rebounded and the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere recently reached a record high of 419 parts per million in November of 2021. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was the 2nd hottest year in recorded history and the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2005, putting the average global temperature on course for an increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit in average temperature by 2050.

This report tracks the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, or carbon footprint, for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro campus for the fiscal years 2009 to 2021. It provides details concerning the trend of UNCG’s greenhouse gas emissions dating back to 2009, the year UNCG first conducted an inventory and the year the University considers to be its baseline by which the University measures its progress in becoming carbon neutral by 2050 – a goal stated in the University of North Carolina System’s Sustainability Policy and UNC Greensboro’s Climate Action Plan adopted in 2013.

FY09-21 Total Annual MTeCO2
FY19-21 MTeCO2 Travel & Commuting

For FY21, UNCG’s carbon footprint was 54,946 MTeCO2 which is a 25% reduction from our baseline FY09 footprint of 73,052 MTeCO2. Somewhat mirroring the global trend, UNCG’s carbon footprint declined by 15% between FY19 and FY20 due to students and employees leaving campus in March 2020 to study and work from home until August, and similarly our emissions increased 2% from FY20 to FY21 as people returned to campus. Overall, the largest declines in our carbon footprint can be attributed to reductions in emissions by our utility provider, Duke Energy; the reduced occupancy of campus and the related declines in business travel and student commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and campus energy efficiency initiatives.

Since 2009, UNCG has added approximately 1.3 million gross square feet in building space and has enrolled approximately 2,700 more students. That’s approximately a 24% increase in gross square feet and an 18% increase in the student population over the past 13 fiscal years. Despite those trends which have contributed to a 9% overall increase of total kWh of electricity used on campus since 2009, the university achieved a 41% MTeCO2 reduction per 1000 gross square feet and a 29% MTeCO2 reduction per weighted campus in FY21, or 29% and 22% respectively by FY19, pre-pandemic. The positive impact of those commitments is reflected in a 21% reduction of energy consumption per square foot and the associated $59.2 million dollars of avoided costs in energy and water bills since 2003 – about which more detail can be read in UNCG’s annual Strategic Energy Plan reports.

FY09-21 Market-Based GSF Bar
FY09-21 Market-Based Weighted Campus User Bar

The full FY09-21 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report provides more details concerning next steps relating to the 22% increase in UNCG's Scope 1 emissions since 2009, the importance of more participation in the UNCG Commuter Survey, and the impact of weather on our carbon emissions.

The full FY09-18 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report provides more details concerning the calculation methods used in the Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platfrom (SIMAP) developed by the Sustainablity Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

For more information about the Greenhouse Effect and the processes of Global Warming and Climate Change, please read UNCG's original Greenhouse Gas Inventory conducted for the fiscal year 2009.