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ASU unveils plan to reach carbon neutrality

February 18, 2010

As a leader in sustainability, Arizona State University is part of a movement of higher-educational institutions across the country that are enacting plans to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by their institutions.

The Carbon Neutrality Action Plan outlines goals and strategic actions that ASU plans to take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in four key areas – energy, transportation, solid waste and fertilizers/refrigerants. The plan includes ASU’s current efforts, with additional information about future projects and areas in which students, faculty and staff can engage to achieve these goals.

By the end of 2010, ASU expects to have the largest installed base of solar power at any college or university in the country. Current projects are designed to bring the university’s solar power program to nearly 25 percent of the university’s power consumption. This is one of many university-lead initiatives already under way as part of a plan announced this week that addresses ASU’s commitment to achieving a carbon neutral environment by 2025. The goal for transportation is to be carbon neutral by 2035.

“While college and university campuses across the country, in aggregate, are responsible for only about 3 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the U.S., we educate 100 percent of the students who can significantly impact our environment," said ASU President Michael Crow, who is a co-chair of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) steering committee and one of the original signatories of the commitment. 

"ASU has approximately 80,000 students, faculty and staff capable of making great strides in improving the environmental quality in Arizona and beyond the borders of our state. Our efforts will have a significant impact in the near term, as well as long into the future through the students we educate today.”

ASU has been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives and already has several projects under way as part of the carbon neutrality goal. Additional university actions include transitioning some ASU service staff from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles and bicycles, investing in cost-saving energy retrofits on two campuses and education on human behavioral change that can add up to big reductions.  

“Carbon neutrality is an important component of ASU’s broader goal of incorporating sustainability in all our operations and practices,” said Ray Jensen, university sustainability operations officer. “This is a community effort where every contribution is significant.”

On the transportation front, ASU subsidizes bus and light rail passes (U-Pass) for all students and employees, offers a car-sharing program on all campuses and a carpool program with special parking privileges.

“The U-Pass has been so successful that a recent study showed U-Pass passenger rides that occur on METRO’S light rail service represents 6 percent of the system’s overall ridership and 20 percent of ridership on Valley METRO,” said Bonny Bentzin, director of university sustainability practices.

Recycling programs are offered at each of the campuses and have helped divert thousands of pounds of solid waste from landfills. A composting program on the Tempe Campus diverts nearly 14 tons of landscaping waste per month, which is used on campus landscapes, replacing nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Efforts to divert reusable goods include a paint salvage program on the Tempe Campus and SunSET, which allows departments on all campuses to trade office products.

“Actions like using public transit, video- or teleconferencing, and recycling are already contributing to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That’s important to ASU, but we will need new ideas to achieve carbon neutrality,” Bentzin said.

ASU students, faculty and staff are invited to review and provide feedback about the Carbon Neutrality Action Plan.  Suggestions and ideas can be given at

To view an interactive application of energy usage of appliances, computers and other items in offices and student housing, visit