CSU Climate Action Plan and GHG Inventories
In 2008, CSU became a signatory of the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The goal of this effort is for university campuses to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to the point of carbon neutrality. In short, the commitment requires participating campuses to take the following steps in pursuit of climate neutrality:
Develop a comprehensive plan (a Climate Action Plan) to achieve climate neutrality.
Make the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available
CSU Climate Action Plan
CSU completed their first Climate Action Plan (CAP) in September 2010. The Climate Action Plan outlines how and when CSU will achieve climate neutrality. The CAP is considered a “living document” and is reviewed and updated every few years by a sub-committee of the CSU President’s Sustainability Commission.
CSU Greenhouse Gas Inventories
While CSU has compiled greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory’s since FY06*, the FY10 GHG inventory serves as the baseline year for ACUPCC, the Climate Action Plan, CSU’s ultimate goal of carbon neutrality. The annual greenhouse gas inventory includes all Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and, a subset of Scope 3** emissions (as required to be reported by ACUPCC).
*The term fiscal year (FY) refers to a period of time used for accounting purposes and preparing financial statements and reports. Colorado State University defines a fiscal year as starting July 1st and ending on June 30th. Therefore, FY22 for example, covers the time period July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.
**To learn more about emission ‘Scopes’ and definitions, visit:
Finally a note about the calculations methodologies used by CSU: Between FY06 and FY17, Colorado State University utilized the Clean Air – Cool Planet Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator tool (also known as the Campus Carbon Calculator [CCC]). The CCC was the most commonly used GHG emissions calculator used by institutions of higher education. Beginning with FY18, CSU will transition to SIMAP (Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform) – which is replacing the Campus Carbon Calculator.
CSU Nitrogen Footprint
The nitrogen footprint calculation is a student-led, faculty and staff-supported project. Colorado State University students have completed five nitrogen footprints. The most recent was completed in the spring of 2022 for the last fiscal year, FY21. The first Nitrogen Footprint was calculated in 2015 for FY14 by students in the Student Sustainability Center. Then for FY18, FY19, FY20, and FY21 by students as a part of academic course work. CSU utilizes the SIMAP platform (since it became available in FY19) to calculate the nitrogen footprint, just as it does for the carbon footprint, aka Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
For FY21, the calculation was completed by two ‘SUPER’ students enrolled in ESS 221. The CSU annual greenhouse gas inventory provides the foundational inputs of the N-print but students gather additional data (not included in the GHG inventory) including, food consumption and research lab animal populations. Each year the calculation has taken a slightly different approach, therefore, consistency of the calculation remains challenging for establishing a baseline, or identifying a trend for nitrogen impacts. For these reasons there is ‘moderate confidence’ in the results of this annual calculation. CSU Facilities Management staff plan to continue completing annual nitrogen inventories and hope to establish goals for nitrogen reductions from campus operations.
CSU STARS Reports
In 2015, CSU became the first university in the world to earn a STARS Platinum rating. CSU received Platinum ratings again in 2017 and 2020. STARS is considered the most comprehensive and well-respected sustainability assessment for colleges and universities with over 1,100 institutions taking part across 6 continents. STARS is provided by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education).
To complete a STARS report, institutions respond to more than 1,025 different text and data fields covering four inclusive categories:
- Academics (curriculum & research)
- Engagement (campus & public)
- Operations, and
- Planning and Administration
To see the CSU STARS report in full, please visit the platinum report on the AASHE website.
Visit the SOURCE story, to learn more.
CSU is an EPA Green Power Partner
Between 2006 and 2021 CSU has participated and been recognized as an EPA Green Power Partner helping to promote and advance the use of renewable electricity through this voluntary program.