Second Nature Takes Inventory of Their GHG Emissions

This spring, Second Nature looked to inventory their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their last two fiscal years 2019 and 2020. As a part of my fellowship with Second Nature through the College For Social Innovation, I conducted the inventory as my semester-long project. The thinking behind this endeavor was to not only be able to inventory and then reduce or offset the organization’s emissions, but also to set the precedent for their peer organizations and the higher education institutions they work with, whom they are also asking to inventory emissions and make concrete plans to reduce or offset them through the nature of their work. 

We used the World Resources Institute (WRI) Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard to conduct the inventory. While the WRI protocol was used, one of the challenges of this project was having to determine the organizational boundaries of what emissions Second Nature should consider under their control. In our final report, we decided to include the emissions associated with the travel of participants to in-person events hosted by Second Nature with the thinking that these emissions would not have happened without the leading role played by Second Nature. Second Nature provides educational services to campus leaders and just like a college that provides in-person and online educational services, some Second Nature offerings are also given virtually (such as webinars) as well as in-person (such as the annual Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit). When college campuses calculate their carbon footprint, the emissions associated with commuting and bringing the learners to in-person sessions are often counted as Scope 3 emissions. These emissions ended up being the largest contributor to the overall total of organizational emissions followed by staff travel and staff commuting (also a part of Scope 3 emissions). 

The process to collect the data needed to calculate Second Nature’s emissions also proved to be challenging. As this was the organization’s first time in several years taking an inventory of their emissions, the necessary data was not easily available. As part of the report, I made suggestions for how some internal operations and processes could be improved to have this information more easily accessible for future inventory purposes. 

The final report includes a goal for Second Nature to be carbon neutral by 2022 through the purchasing of carbon offsets. Depending on the quality of offsets, it was estimated that about *$1,500 would need to be included in the annual budget to entirely offset their emissions based on the fiscal years we inventoried (2019 and 2020). We would want any offsets purchased to have additionality and be local to the Northeast. 

The data shows that in 2019 the gross emissions for Second Nature was 162 MTCO2e and in 2020 was 140 MTCO2e. In 2019, 160.3 MTCO2e of the 162 MTCO2e were from Scope 3 (pg 3) emissions and just 1.24 MTCO2e were from Scope 2 (pg 2). Very similar distributions were concluded for 2020 as well. Second Nature does not have any Scope 1 (pg 2) emissions. 

As a Junior from the University of Vermont studying Anthropology and Global Studies, this experience was unlike anything I had ever done before. With the help of my mentor and Director of Strategic Partnerships at Second Nature, Eric Howard, and Kevin Laycock from Brailsford and Dunlavey who provided services through an in-kind donation, this project would not have been possible. Throughout this process and my time with Second Nature, I have learned so much about greenhouse gas reporting, higher education, sustainability, and energy. Beyond that, I have been able to form invaluable connections with the staff at Second Nature and build upon my professional skills. Thank you to all those at Second Nature who helped make this experience so meaningful. 

You can read the full report here.

*based on local offset projects that could be purchased at $8/ton