The SLT approves a carbon offset proposal for student flight emissions

The SLT has approved a carbon offset proposal for student flight emissions submitted by the Environmental Sustainability Task Force (ESTF). The SLT recognizes this initiative as an important student-institutional partnership that will help us meet our sustainability goals. Thank you to the ESTF, the 4A Sustainability and Resilience cross-functional team, and especially to the original authors of this proposal: Sophia Huang (UWC-USA ‘20), Ben Gillock (UWC-USA Faculty), and David Neidel (UWC-USA Alumnus Fellow ‘19).

To understand the proposal, we encourage you to read it carefully. It recognizes UWC-USA’s commitment to a sustainable future; the complexity presented by our international student body; the role of carbon offsets in counterbalancing flight/transportation emissions; the fine balance between institutional and personal responsibility; the value of a regional approach that links carbon sequestration projects to social and economic benefits for host communities; the importance of third-party verification; and the need for annual review. Members of the Class of 2023 will be the first students to pay the $25 carbon offsetting fee as part of their tuition bill. Students will receive notification of this fee and its purpose; once they arrive on campus, they will receive follow-up information about this initiative and our partners.

How does this initiative fit into our larger sustainability goals? Three points here:

1) We estimate that UWC-USA is responsible for roughly 4,500 metric tons of CO2 (eq) emissions per year. This number will be further refined as our data analysis improves. The SLT has approved a 4A cross-functional team recommendation that we achieve a 25% net emissions reduction by 2024. As the SLT ramps up its work on Phase II: Innovate for Impact, it will work with the ESTF to identify a far more ambitious emissions reduction goal for 2032.

2) In 2021-22, with participation from the Class of 2023, the institution will achieve a net 3.5% reduction in our annual emissions. In 2022-23, with participation from the Class of 2023 and the Class of 2024, we will achieve a net 7% reduction in our annual emissions.

3) Going forward the SLT will prioritize initiatives that enable students, employees, and the institution to reduce (not offset) the carbon emissions linked to our campus and school operations. However, as long we are dependent on fossil fuels–especially for air transportation–we will consider the purchase of the highest-quality carbon offsets to counterbalance these emissions. Now that we have completed this work on student flight emissions, we will begin an analysis of employee flight emissions.