Campus Carbon Accounting Goes Digital

Tim Goral's picture
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

PORTSMOUTH, N.H., March 18, 2013 -- Today, Clean Air-Cool Planet launched the new web-based Carbon Management and Analysis Platform (CarbonMAP), the next iteration of its popular Campus Carbon Calculator tool used by more than 2000 institutions across the globe to measure and manage energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Created in a partnership between Clean Air-Cool Planet and Sightlines LLC, CarbonMAP allows users to track and reduce their carbon footprints more efficiently and effectively than before.

The launch of the platform comes after more than two years of development, user-interviews, workshops, and beta testing. Support from The Verizon Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, and individual donors make this powerful new web tool free for users at least through the end of 2013, distinguishing it from other available "enterprise carbon accounting" tools.

"After more than a decade of providing a scientifically rigorous, standardized, user-driven tool for campuses, we are thrilled to be taking it into 'the cloud,'" noted Jennifer Andrews, Acting Executive Director at Clean Air-Cool Planet. "Our goal with CarbonMAP is to continue to support innovation and leadership from higher education in addressing climate change," Andrews said.

"Sightlines is very excited about our collaboration with Clean-Air--Cool Planet and the launch of CarbonMAP. Not only do campuses have access to a new user-friendly tool for managing their emissions, but this unprecedented amount of data will serve as the research base to drive the future of sustainability within higher education," said Jay Pearlman, Associate Vice-President of Sightlines.

The launch was welcomed by Second Nature president David Hales, who observed, "The progress of the signatories of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment is directly related to our ability to confidently measure and report reductions in carbon emissions. The Campus Carbon Calculator has been essential to the ACUPCC's success, and CarbonMAP is a tremendous improvement."

Aside from allowing for a greatly enhanced user experience, the new web-based Carbon Management and Analysis Platform (CarbonMAP) will also comprise the most extensive body of aggregated campus energy, climate and sustainability metrics ever compiled. With this data, CA-CP will be creating reports that illuminate trends, shared challenges and opportunities for institutions seeking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the transition from Excel to the web will allow for automated transfer of information between CarbonMAP and other widely-used sustainability tracking tools, including the reporting site for the ACUPCC, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)'s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), and the Sustainable Endowments Institute's Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS).

The new database that will serve as the foundation of the tool is intended to be developed as a "data commons" for sustainability, with a host of other tools to follow the web-based Calculator. This is in keeping with the tool's history: Originally developed in partnership with the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire(UNH) in 2001, the workbook was road-tested by more than a dozen leading Northeast campuses before being revised and made available for free download from CA-CP's website in 2004. Since then it has been downloaded and used by tens of thousands of faculty, students, facilities managers and sustainability coordinators in the U.S., Canada, and abroad.

"What began as a spreadsheet developed by our office and Clean Air--Cool Planet to help colleges and universities understand their baseline greenhouse gas emissions has evolved into an essential tool not only for campus mitigation and adaptation planning, but also for student learning," says Dr. Tom Kelly, chief sustainability officer at UNH and director of its Sustainability Institute. "At UNH, we will use CarbonMAP to help us meet our climate action plan goals as well as to engage students in understanding our climate system through the lens of our own campus policies and practices."

The high demand for this tool has been exemplified not only by the sheer number of downloads of the Excel version, but also by the fact that it has been stretched beyond its initial purpose by users. For example, K-12 schools have also used the Calculator although it was originally developed for institutions of higher education. Furthermore, users in other countries and outside academia have customized the tool to suit their needs simply because there is no other tool of this caliber. Although the web-based Campus Carbon Calculator is highly customizable, the default emission factors and calculations are the result of years of research into best practices on carbon-accounting for campuses.

The version of CarbonMAP launched today only includes the "Inventory" module of the existing Campus Carbon Calculator, which allows users to determine their baseline carbon footprints. Currently under development for future integration and release are the following: the Campus Carbon Calculator's Projections and Solutions modules, which allow users to determine how to cost-effectively meet their carbon reduction goals; a Coal Waste module and mobile app, which will highlight the indirect impacts of coal dependence and the potential benefits of both fuel-switching and divestment; a Project Library of sample GHG mitigation project data drawn from real-life campus projects; CA-CP's Charting Emissions from Food Services calculator; benchmarking and comparison tools; communication and outreach tools; and "upstream" energy emissions calculations.

Learn more from Clean Air-Cool Planet