Starting in October, Duke community members can lower the emissions they can't reduce or avoid by supporting greenhouse gas emission reduction projects sponsored by Duke.
Employees and students can buy "offsets" through the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative to lower their own carbon footprint and support local projects. The offsets have been generated as a way to meet Duke's climate neutrality commitment and provide local and regional benefits beyond carbon reductions.Read More
"This is another opportunity to help educate students, faculty and staff on ways they can become more sustainable, while making a difference in North Carolina," said Tatjana Vujic, director of the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative. "This is a major part of getting the campus prepared to become climate neutral by 2024."
Carbon offsets are created when a person or group funds activities or projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gases. For example, at Loyd Ray Farms in Yadkinville, Duke created an offset project to capture methane gas from a lined and covered anaerobic digester to help control emissions, reduce pollutants and generate renewable energy. Because of that, Duke is entitled to the greenhouse gas emission reductions the project achieves.
Currently, self-reported results from Duke's carbon calculator show the average employee contributes about three metric tons of carbon emissions per year to Duke's overall carbon footprint based on habits related to diet, commuting, air travel, and computer use. That's equivalent to burning 336 gallons of gas or three months of powering a home.
Through Duke's Offsets Initiative, employees and departments can purchase offsets to address emission footprints starting at $10 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, meaning an average employee would only pay about $30 to offset an entire year of Duke-related carbon emissions.
Tavey Capps, Duke's director of environmental sustainability, said buying offsets through Duke will better North Carolina instead of supporting projects unrelated to Duke.
"While our first priority is helping individuals reduce their carbon footprint, we recognize that offsets will be necessary to reach our goal of neutrality," Capps said. "This isn't just any offset, it's one that directly benefits our local communities."
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions will be among one of the first units to buy offsets.
A key priority for the Institute is to become carbon neutral, said Director Tim Profeta.
"We see this as a means to walk the walk and ensure that the activities of the Nicholas Institute aren't worsening the global warming situation we're trying to help solve," Profeta said. "Any solution needs to be from the ground up, meaning it will take individuals to spur change."
In addition to the Yadkinville hog farm, Duke is considering other offset projects such as reforestation of North Carolina lands and energy efficiency in homes and businesses across the state.
"We want our initiative to be similar to investing in a mutual fund, where you can support a variety of projects that make up a diverse portfolio," Vujic said. "Making these offsets available gives everyone a chance to make a difference far beyond what they are already doing to address climate change."