Oregon State is committed to addressing the global climate crisis by reducing its emissions and empowering our graduates to take bold action.

In 2007, OSU committed to substantially reduce and eventually eliminate its greenhouse gas (carbon) emissions. Since that commitment, the university has reduced emissions 33% despite significant growth. In 2022, OSU leadership, the Sustainability Office and the Faculty Senate Carbon Commitment Committee created the OSU Path to Carbon Neutrality. The Path is a plan with nine actions that accelerate decarbonization of university activities.

By implementing the Path, OSU reaffirms its commitment to advancing climate science and OSU Strategic Plan Action 14: Reduce our carbon footprint.

Developing the OSU Path and Nine Actions

Following principles in OSU's 2009 Climate Plan and informed by 15 years of successes and challenges, the OSU Path to Carbon Neutrality provides an integrated approach to reduce OSU's carbon emissions. It is the result of over a year of stakeholder engagement, benchmarking and peer review to further incorporate decarbonization into business as usual at the university.

It leverages systemic changes begun in 2018 by the Sustainability Office, OSU administrative leadership, Faculty Senate and others, that include an updated energy policy, a utility savings reinvestment fund, a green building policy, a streamlined mechanism to install more solar electric equipment, and other actions.

Fully Implementing Our Decarbonization Strategy

Since signing as a charter signatory of the Carbon Commitment, OSU has made progress to reduce total emissions. The Path is an implementation plan with specific actions to accelerate this progress. It defines and funds actions the university must take to achieve carbon neutrality in 2025, or soon thereafter. Generally, OSU will prioritize direct emissions reductions, like building efficiency improvement, before indirect actions such as purchasing off-site renewable energy.

The nine actions below are listed in priority order but work will occur simultaneously on multiple actions.

Action Priority

Action

Description

% Carbon Reduction

 Estimated Marginal Cost

 Source of Funds

Funding Status

1

Improve Existing Building Efficiency

Increase building efficiency by implementing heating and cooling system tune ups and calibration, known as retro-commissioning, within at least two existing buildings each year.

16%

 $500,000

Utility Savings Reinvestment

Funded

2

Leverage Capital Improvement and Renewal Projects

Replace and upgrade heating and cooling systems, building controls, lighting and other aging and failing systems to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings.

9%

 $500,000

Capital Improvement and Renewal

Funded

3

Expand On-site Renewable Energy

Install solar electrical equipment at two to four university properties each year for 10 years.

6%

 $1,000,000

Revenue Bond

Funded

4

Decarbonize Major Capital Projects

Include deep energy efficiency and decarbonization in Major Capital Projects. Prioritize renovation of existing buildings over building new structures, whenever possible. Evaluate hybrid work opportunities to reduce needed building space.

5%

 $500,000

Capital Forecast

TBD

5

Purchase Off-site Renewable Energy

By 2025, all of OSU’s purchased electricity comes from renewable sources.

17%

 $150,000

Operating Funds

TBD

6

Implement Sustainable Transportation Strategy

By 2030, implement OSU’s Sustainable Transportation Strategy to reduce commute emissions. Encourage alternatives to university-funded air travel.

5%

 $1,100,000

Multiple

Partially Funded

7

Engage University Community

Inspire individual and collective actions that reduce carbon emissions by conducting outreach campaigns that engage the university community.

1%

 $5,000

Operating Funds

Funded

8

Decarbonize District Energy Systems

Create a plan and timeline to eliminate fossil fuel use at the OSU Energy Center and in Corvallis campus district energy distribution systems.

TBD

TBD

TBD

TBD

9

Purchase Carbon Offsets

Prioritize direct emissions as much as possible. Evaluate carbon offset potential from university lands. Evaluate third-party-certified, regional carbon offsets to address remaining emissions.

41%

 $600,000

Operating Funds

TBD

Direct Actions to Reduce Emissions

Direct actions are changes to assets most directly controlled by the university. OSU can achieve at least a 34% emissions reduction in the next ten years with additional investment in targeted areas. These include:

  • Deep energy efficiency in existing buildings via heating and cooling refinement, lighting upgrades, etc.

  • Enhancement funds so capital projects optimize designs to reduce water use, energy use and long-term maintenance.  

  • Transportation and land use planning that aims for a drive alone rate for the Corvallis campus under 20%.

  • Strategic investments in solar equipment at properties across the state.

Indirect Actions

Indirect emissions reductions fall into two categories:

  • New renewable energy assets the university does not own (like a new wind turbine or a solar farm).
  • Purchases of renewable energy certificates (RECs) or carbon offsets from existing resources that cause incremental change in the carbon marketplace.