Carbon Offset Opportunities at the Duke University Health System

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Wallis, Kimberly
Shown, Erin
Lin, Ye


Thomann, Wayne

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Over the past century, global temperatures have increased in large part due to anthropogenic fossil fuel combustion. The impact of this change can already be seen in disappearing ice cover across the world. This trend has caused concern about the impact climate change will have on the environmental systems that civilization depends upon. Governments and other large bodies are acting now to address climate change; Duke University is among them. In 2007, Duke University President, Richard H. Brodhead, signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, and made the pledge to be carbon neutral by 2024.

This master's project can aid the University in achieving its carbon neutrality pledge through the discovery of new and innovative carbon emission reduction opportunities within the Duke University Health System (DUHS). The opportunity exploration process consisted of: engaging in discussions with senior management, engineers, and staff; performing a broad literature review; and researching best practices at other institutions. Initial research areas identified were: energy efficient lighting, Energy Star equipment, sustainable medical and organic waste disposal, sustainable tableware, renewable energy, green purchasing, workplace transportation, and retrofits to existing buildings. After identification of the initial research areas, we reiterated the exploratory process and narrowed our focus to energy efficient lighting, sustainable organic waste disposal, sustainable tableware, and Energy Star equipment. In particular, the project focused on these areas within the boundaries of the Duke University Hospital (DUH) commercial-scale kitchen.

After exploring each of these options, several promising opportunities became apparent. The upgrades in lighting efficiency are most viable at this time, although several other opportunities are likely to become feasible in the near future. The results of the lighting analysis in the DUH kitchen revealed a total carbon reduction potential of 100 tons over the lifetime of the project and the hospital would realize annual savings of $2000 in reduced electricity and maintenance costs. The results of the organic waste and sustainable tableware analysis are promising in terms of carbon reduction potential but prohibitive due to high costs. We recommend further analysis and collaboration with key stakeholders to discover strategies to reduce these costs. A broader application of lighting efficiency upgrades could further aid the University to achieve carbon neutrality, and simultaneously provide cost savings to the institutions involved.





Wallis, Kimberly, Erin Shown and Ye Lin (2012). Carbon Offset Opportunities at the Duke University Health System. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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