APS News

December 2017 (Volume 26, Number 11)

APS Inventories Its Carbon Footprint

In Follow-up to Climate Change Statement, APS Conducts Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Publishes Results

By Tawanda W. Johnson

After issuing its Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate, APS has conducted a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory—often referred to as a carbon footprint—of its daily operations. The results were audited by an independent firm and posted online, making APS the first scientific society in the United States to broadly assess and publish its emissions. APS is now exploring ways to reduce the GHG emissions from its day-to-day operations and is evaluating emissions attributable to various activities of the Society, which include APS member travel to and from its national meetings.

"Having issued a statement on Earth’s changing climate, we thought it important for the Society to understand its own carbon footprint," said APS Chief Executive Officer Kate Kirby.

APS greenhouse gas inventory
Adapted from epa.gov

The APS greenhouse gas inventory follows established standards: Scope 1 - direct emissions from APS activities; Scope 2 - indirect emissions from purchased energy; Scope 3 - indirect emissions from commuting, business travel, and outsourced activities

The GHG Inventory Advisory Committee, which is overseen by the APS Panel on Public Affairs, has managed the inventory project since last year. Additionally, APS selected Anthesis—a global specialist consultancy skilled in GHG inventory development—to support the committee and assist the Society in determining its inventory. Anthesis was also charged with helping APS develop the tools and institutional knowledge necessary for the Society to continue its own GHG inventory going forward.

The committee used the well established and industry-recognized standards of The Climate Registry (TCR) to develop APS’s GHG inventory. TCR is a nonprofit group of nearly 300 public and private organizations and 60 states and provinces across North America; it designs and operates voluntary and compliance GHG reporting programs globally and assists organizations in measuring, reporting and verifying their GHG inventories.

Following the TCR protocol, the APS GHG emissions were divided into three categories:

  • Scope 1: Emissions from direct energy combustion that occurs on-site or from owned vehicle operation; also direct industrial/HVAC gas emissions;
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions resulting from purchased energy generation, often in the form of electricity, steam, or chilled water; and
  • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions that are a result of organizational activities; includes emissions from business travel, employee commuting, waste management and supplier or outsourced activities.

Because there are well-defined protocols by TCR for Scopes 1 and 2, the initial analysis included only Scope 1 and 2 emissions, assessing activities at APS headquarters in College Park, MD, the Society’s editorial offices in Ridge, N.Y., and its public affairs office in Washington, D.C. Cameron-Cole, an independent environmental auditing firm and TCR-approved verification body, verified the results from Scopes 1 and 2.

Scope 3 emissions calculations—which have required APS to develop its own methodologies—are ongoing. Preliminary results indicate two Scope 3 emission sources—travel to APS meetings and the Society’s investment portfolio—significantly impact overall APS GHG emissions.

The detailed inventory for Scopes 1 and 2 are posted on the APS website.

In addition to overseeing the APS GHG inventory, the advisory committee has provided the Society recommendations to reduce and/or mitigate its GHG emissions. The committee’s inventory recommendations for Scopes 1 & 2 are:

  • Consider Purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): APS should investigate the possibility of purchasing RECs for the electricity used by APS at each of its three locations. The Office of Public Affairs (OPA) staff should work with the appropriate APS staff in College Park and Ridge to determine the practical and economic feasibility of purchasing RECs at each location.
  • Improve Buildings’ Energy Efficiencies: OPA staff should work with building management at the National Press Building and the co-owners of the American Center for Physics to improve the energy efficiencies of the buildings, where possible.

APS is now exploring avenues to reduce its Scope 1 & 2 emissions, including working with the building managers at its D.C. location to increase energy efficiency. APS plans to present its Scope 3 results and recommended Society actions to APS members during the first quarter of 2018.

"By having its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions independently verified and publicly posted, APS has completed a critical stage of its GHG inventory," said Bill McCurdy, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Davis, who served as chair of the GHG Inventory Advisory Committee. "Not only does APS now have an understanding of the GHG emissions from the Society’s day-to-day operations, but it is establishing a path for like-minded organizations to follow; we hope that they will join us."

December 2017 (Volume 26, Number 11)

Table of Contents

APS News Archives

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Articles in this Issue
What You Need to Know: APS and SCOAP3
APS Inventories Its Carbon Footprint
Charting a Future for U.S. Physics
YouTube’s Physics Girl
A Physicist Pushes for Interstellar Travel
Robert Henry Bragg, Jr. 1919-2017
Managing the Flood of Space Program Data
International News
This Month in Physics History
News from the APS Office of Public Affairs
The Back Page

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Editor: David Voss
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik