Quantifying the Ecological Footprint of the Ohio State University
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Natural Resources Honors Theses; 2007
Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) was introduced in the 1990s to measure the environmental impact of individual nations by calculating their resource use and converting it into a measure of ecologically-productive land area. Since then, ecological footprint analyses have been applied to institutions, manufactured products, and even individual lifestyles. The purpose of this study was to quantify the Ohio State University’s (OSU) use of energy, transportation costs, and generated waste by calculating the associated ecological footprints (EFs) of each of those sectors. Given its size, and composed of a complex system of energy and material inputs and outputs, OSU has a major impact on its surrounding environment in significant ways. Methods for calculating the EF of energy include data on electricity, oil, and natural gas use and converting these quantities of use to hectares (1 ha = 2.47 acres) of productive land. The transportation footprint was based on the number of vehicles and buses at OSU in one year, the fuels and maintenance associated with vehicles, and the space taken by parking lots. The waste footprint was calculated by converting trash and recycling tonnages by composition component to an associated footprint value. Data analysis was similar to such studies done elsewhere. The EF of energy, transportation, and waste at OSU was found to be 8.66 hectares per capita per year (ha/cap/yr). This means that each student, faculty member, and staff member requires 8.66 ha of land per year to sustain his/her use of energy, and transportation and disposal of waste at the university. The major portion of the footprint was attributable to electricity use (1.80 ha/cap/yr, or 20.83% of total footprint), and the impact of cars (5.41 ha/cap/yr or 62.53%). The findings of this study serve as indicators of practices that greatly impact the local and global environment thus making a case that environmental costs should not be treated as externalities in the university’s decision-making. With a goal to “reduce ecological footprint,” OSU can further strive for environmental excellence in areas highlighted in this study.
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