School GHG Inventory

Protocols and Calculators

Based on the limited number of existing inventories conducted by K-12 schools[1] and existing protocols, the best protocols for school districts in California are most likely the Local Government Operations Protocol or the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard. These two sector protocols are very similar and result in similar outcomes, as they both stem from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol that was developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

These protocols have various pros and cons, outlined in Table 1 below. The Local Government Operations Protocol is intended for local governments, and as such, California local government staff are likely to be more familiar with the protocol, thus able to lend assistance. The Corporate Standard is smaller in scope and potentially a better fit for K-12 schools because of the reduced complexity of a school district over that of a municipal government.

 

Table 1 - GHG Inventory Protocols Comparison

LG Operations Protocol

Corporate Standard

Pros

Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Significant CA statewide experience and support available[2]
  • Technical Assistance available from NGOs and state agencies
  • Aligns with CA cities[3]
  • May be more complex than needed (e.g. includes wastewater treatment and landfills)
  • More recent Scope 2 guidance
  • May better match the scope of a school district
  • Aligns with colleges/universities[4]
  • Less CA local government familiarity
  • Technical Assistance provided for a fee
 

 

Three primary calculators are available for schools to use in calculating the GHG inventory based on one of the above protocols: SIMAP, ClearPath, and Excel-based (see also Table 2).[5] SIMAP is run by the University of New Hampshire, is Corporate Standard compliant, and offers a low-cost software solution focused on universities and colleges. ClearPath is run by ICLEI, is based on the LG Operations Protocol, is available to local governments at no cost, and local government staff may be familiar with this tool, despite offering more complexity than a school district may need. Excel-based calculators can be simple or complex, depending on the proficiency and needs of the organization. Protocols include the formulas to construct an inventory which allow a basic calculator to be created with limited expertise (e.g., in Microsoft Excel), however updating the inventory would then require updating the custom calculator to reflect any protocol updates and may depend on sustained staff capacity.

 

Table 2 - GHG Inventory Calculator Software Comparison

Calculator:

SIMAP

ClearPath

Excel-based

Cost:

$350/year

Free

Free/TBD[6]

Protocol:

Corporate Standard

LG Operations Protocol

Either

Support:

Included in price

Free: SEEC, ICLEI, Others

Free/TBD[7]

Ease of Use:

Very simple

Training needed

Easy for experienced user

Scope:

Calculates inventory

Calculates inventory and potential policies

Can be built to the needs of the user

 

 

The San Francisco Department of Environment uses the Excel approach, because they already have Microsoft Office licenses and in-house expertise – they therefore were able to create the tools they needed with little additional training necessary. However, the simplicity of tools such as SIMAP may be all that is necessary for a school district if they do not wish to create a custom solution or cannot shoulder the cost of training and/or additional software licenses.[8]

Case Studies

San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is working to become carbon neutral by 2040. SFUSD uses the GHG inventory of their facilities (Scope 1 and 2) based on their own calculations and inclusion in the City of San Francisco’s municipal inventory (Local Government Operations Protocol + Excel calculator). The SFUSD Carbon Reduction Plan covers the major GHG sources, strategies, targets, and basic costs.

Fairfax County Schools (in Virginia), produced a report outlining their Scope 1 and 2 emissions from 2008-2017. The inventories for 2009-2017 were produced using the Local Government Operations Protocol version 1.1, while the 2008 inventory used the Climate Registry’s General Reporting Protocol version 1.1. Fairfax County Schools additionally participate in ENERGY STAR certification and maintain a website that includes additional data, ways to incorporate actions into the classroom, and resources.

The University of California system has a goal of carbon neutrality for buildings and fleets by 2025. They are American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment[9] (ACUPCC) signatories, and are using Scope 1 and 2 emissions plus specific Scope 3 emissions as outlined by the ACUPCC. The UC Office of the President maintains a Carbon Neutrality Initiative page, as well as hosting a Sustainable Practices Policy outlining measures and activities and an Annual Report on Sustainable Practices with updates on specific sectors and targets. Individual campuses report through the Second Nature reporting platform (formerly ACUPCC).

Resources


  • [1] Most K-12 schools or school districts found focused on achieving Zero Net Energy and providing opportunities for active transportation to schools. Schools potentially focused on energy efficiency because there was funding available, and there is no requirement for addressing GHG emissions.

  • [2] Numerous municipalities across the State of California use the LGOP for their municipal inventories. Additionally, it is supported by ICLEI and CARB.

  • [3] Hundreds of local governments use the ClearPath tool, which supports the LGOP and Community Protocol.

  • [4] Second Nature, AASHE, EPA, and NOAA all list the Corporate Protocol, or a calculator based on the Corporate Standard, for use on college and university campuses. There are 439 reporting entities on Second Nature alone.

  • [5] There are numerous Excel templates available, or the calculations available in the protocol documentation can be used by experienced Excel users to easily create their own, custom calculator.

  • [6] May require paid support.

  • [7] May require paid support.

  • [8] Per interviews with staff at SF Environment, ICLEI, and CARB.

  • [9] Now Second Nature: https://secondnature.org