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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

Each year, the Office for Sustainability conducts an inventory of all greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere as a result of American University business. These emissions contribute to global climate change and the university's goal is to mitigate all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 and make AU a carbon neutral institution. Thanks to many programs including energy efficiency initiatives, renewable energy, green buildings, sustainable transportation programs, and zero waste efforts, the university's GHG emissions have fallen more than 61 percent from the 2005 baseline.

Annual GHG emissions reports are submitted publicly to Second Nature.

Emissions by Scope

Bar graph of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents for American University from 2005 through 2017
Scope 1 emissions, which are on-site emissions from natural gas and the university fleet have had slight fluctuations between 2005-2017, generally trending downward. Scope 1 emissions account for about a third of the university's total emissions in 2017. Scope 2 emissions, which are emissions from purchased electricity, accounted for approximately half of the university's total emissions from 2005 until 2010. In 2011, Scope 2 emissions are 0 as the university began purchasing renewable energy for 100% of emissions associated with purchased electricity. Scope 3 emissions, which are emissions from indirect sources, like commuting and waste, have maintained relatively constant levels, fluctuating only slightly in a general downward trend. In 2017, they account for roughly two-thirds of the university's total emissions.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions are measured in three categories:

On-site emissions from natural gas and the university fleet.

Purchased electricity for campus use.

All other emissions including commuting, study abroad travel, athletics travel, travel for conferences and meetings, emissions from waste that goes to landfill, and other small sources of emissions.


Greenhouse gas emissions reductions are only part of the sustainability efforts at AU. To measure progress in the environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability work, AU uses the sustainability tracking, assessment, and reporting system ( STARS).

STARS was created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ( AASHE) to help colleges and universities track progress and set goals.

AU completed its third STARS submission in spring of 2016 and earned a gold rating. AU was also a charter participant in STARS and has completed three assessments since 2010.

Scope 2 GHG emissions have been managed since 2010 by purchasing 100 percent renewable energy.