Washington University in St. Louis has a goal to chart a path toward carbon neutrality without purchasing renewable energy credits.


Washington University has a long legacy of increasing the efficiency of our operations. Since 1990, the Danforth and Medical campuses have nearly doubled in square footage while holding energy use flat, as shown in this graph. Energy Use Graph From 2010 to 2015, our carbon emissions decreased by 17,199 metric tons of CO2 despite the addition of more than 585,000 square feet of new space for teaching, research and patient care. This progress is the outcome of major investments in NPV-positive energy conservation and carbon reduction strategies. Our energy and carbon reduction has been driven by upgrades to the utility systems that heat and cool our buildings, investments in higher efficiency systems within our buildings such as lighting, optimization of existing heating and cooling systems, improved energy management through investments in metering infrastructure and controls, and awareness programs that engage our campus community in energy conservation. In spring 2014, we undertook our first major set of renewable energy projects, consisting of over half a megawatt of solar photovoltaics and solar thermal.  

Case Study

Tyson Research Center: 33% Renewable Energy

Logo for energy and emissionsTyson Research Center is the university’s 2,000-acre ecological field station, located 30 minutes west of the Danforth Campus. With the 2014 addition of a 50 kilowatt ground-mounted solar array, the entire Tyson campus is one-third of the way to being net-zero energy, earning recognition by the EPA’s Green Power Partnership.  The new solar array brings the Tyson campus’s total to 73 kw of solar PV.



Renewable Energy Projects

In 2014 and 2015, Washington University added 547 kilowatts (kw) of solar photovoltaics to university-owned property, including the Danforth, Medical, West, North, and Tyson campuses. The investment will pay off by producing enough emission-free energy to power the electrical usage of 70 average U.S. homes and save the university more than $100,000 over the first 10 years alone.


5 MILLION SQUARE FEET of office and lab space with high efficiency lighting

Lighting Retrofits

Since 2010, approximately 5 million square feet of office and lab space at the School of Medicine and Danforth campuses have been upgraded from 34-watt T12 fluorescent lights to high-efficiency 21-watt T8 lights. In summer 2014, four Danforth Campus parking garages were retrofitted with more than 700 LED fixtures, saving energy, reducing maintenance costs, and improving safety. The lighting retrofit projects are estimated to annually save $600,000 and 7,300 metric tons of CO2.


Green Cup Competition

Green Cup Competition

Each February, student residential colleges compete to see who can reduce their electricity usage the most. In 2016, students reduced their electricity usage by more than 160,000 kwh in one month, equivalent to the annual usage of 15 U.S. homes. The Green Cup is driven by leadership from the CS40 Eco Reps, Greek Life, Residential Life staff, and the Medical Student Sustainability Committee.

Due to the progress made since 2010, Executive Vice Chancellor Hank Webber charged a leadership team in fall 2014 with identifying further energy and emissions reduction opportunities and establishing a more aggressive 2020 emissions reduction goal. The team updated the university’s financial modeling guidelines and worked with consultants to identify nearly $30 million of additional net-present-value (NPV)-positive energy and emissions reduction strategies to be implemented prior to 2020.


2009 GHG Inventory

Logo for energy and emissionsBurns & McDonnell conducted this greenhouse gas inventory for Washington University in St. Louis for fiscal years 1990-2007. While absolute greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly from 1990-2007, greenhouse gas intensity ratios have decreased slightly.

Read the Full Report (PDF)