Late in 2012, The American University in Cairo became the first institution in the Middle East and North Africa to conduct a comprehensive study of its impact on climate change. It released the publication Our Carbon Footprint , prepared by the Office of Sustainability and the Desert Development Center, which was the result of campus-wide efforts incorporating the work of faculty, staff and students.
I recently had the chance to speak with the Marc Rauch, the sustainability coordinator at AUC, about this initiative.
1. Why did you decide to create the report and do this research?
Egypt is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change so it is important that we do what we can to curb our carbon emissions and convince others to do likewise to help sustain the long-term viability of Egyptian society. This project represents the first attempt in the region to measure a university’s impact on climate change, which not only enables us to work on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on campus, but also serve as a model and challenge for others to also address climate change in their organizations.
2. How did you go about putting together the report and gathering the information?
We used as a reference the Clean Air – Cool Planet Carbon Calculator which was adapted to the specific needs of AUC and Egypt. This is an excel workbook capable of quantifying an annual aggregate carbon footprint. We focused only on our New Cairo campus where the bulk of the University’s operations now take place. The report provides in-depth information about how we went about calculating our footprint and provides a foundation for continued efforts to improve AUC’s performance in this area.
3. What were some of the interesting findings from the report
We expected the emissions rate to be higher than it was given AUC’s reliance on commuting to New Cairo and our extensive use of air conditioning. Most of the emissions came from three sources: 40% came from heating, ventilation, air conditioning and domestic hot water, not surprising since the campus is located in a desert climate; 27% came from commuting by bus and car since the campus is 35km away from downtown Cairo; and 21.5% came from lighting and use of other electrical equipment. We also found it useful to compare ourselves with other universities by greenhouse gases emitted per full-time equivalent student.
4. What plans do you have for the future for sustainability and carbon reduction on campus?
We developed seventeen measures around which to reduce our carbon footprint: Air Conditioning, Heating and ventilation, Transportation, Lighting, Paper Use and Water Supply. This is a project that allows anyone on campus to engage in by adjusting temperature settings in their office to encouraging carpooling. The website also has an area for students and staff to submit ideas on how to reduce AUC’s Carbon Footprint further.
We have formed two separate university-wide task forces, one focused on reducing our energy consumption by one third overall within 3 years, and the other focused on conserving and recycling water. We have already achieved striking gains in energy conservation and efficiency, and are starting to make progress on water.
5. What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing the same activity?
Do a quick review of a widely used carbon calculator like Clean Air/Cool Planet’s to see the kinds of data you will need to calculate your carbon footprint. Then before going any further, do some research to confirm that the data required is available on campus or can be generated or retrieved without too much difficulty. In our case, the data was usually available in some form, even if getting it sometimes required a bit of coaxing!
To view the full Carbon Footprint Report click here.