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Office of Climate Action

Climate 101

Learn more about key climate topics and how they apply to Rutgers in our monthly Climate 101 series.

Solar panels cover a parking lot under a blue sky with puffy white clouds

In this issue, we will take a deeper look at scope 2 emissions and clean electricity. Put simply, scope 2 emissions are the indirect emissions that are associated with the purchase of electricity, heat, cooling, etc (EPA). Unlike scope 1, these emissions are not generated directly by the organization using them (i.e. Rutgers). Some examples include fugitive emissions and emissions from provisioning plants. One challenge Rutgers, along with many other organizations, faces is defining scope 2 emissions.

Richard Weeks

As of 2021, scope 1 emissions made up 46% of Rutgers’ total emissions. In order to reach our goal of carbon neutrality by 2040, rapid changes need to be made each year to cut down on these emissions. According to the Climate Action Plan, Rutgers’ scope 1 emissions include combustion of fossil fuels in university-owned buildings, equipment, and vehicles, fugitive emissions from refrigeration, and emissions from on-campus agriculture or livestock husbandry.  

Electric van

In the US, transportation produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector, including electricity and agriculture. Since transportation, and especially road travel, is a large contributor to transportation emissions, it is important to understand the what vehicles, systems, and behaviors contribute to transportation emissions broadly and at Rutgers. With this understanding, we can take meaningful action to address climate change. 

food scraps

A major issue throughout the holidays is waste. “Over 70 billion pounds of food waste reaches our landfills every year, contributing to methane emissions, wasting energy and resources across the food supply chain” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. According to The Ecology Center, the United States sees a 25% increase in waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. That’s 1 million extra tons of waste! What does waste have to do with climate change and what can we do about it? 

yellow and green squash

Scope 3 emissions, which includes commuting, business travel, and food emissions, are the most difficult to track. You may be wondering how we track food emissions. An important component of this calculation is food miles. Food miles measure the distance from where the food is produced to where it is consumed and the emissions created from this process. Other factors such as food type, if the food is locally sourced, associated food waste, and the resources required to produce the food contribute to food emissions as well. 

Graph displaying the carbon emissions baseline for rutgers

In the September edition of Climate 101, we discussed Rutgers’ commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.  The first step in doing this is determining which emissions are attributed to Rutgers and how to track them. 

Greenhouse gas accounting uses the concept of ‘scopes’ to help organizations understand their emissions. There are three scopes, or level of responsibilities, for emissions – Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3.