Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

GHG Inventory Update 2020

A graph showing PCC's change in greenhouse gas inventory since 2013. This graph depicts the relative metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for fleet, natural gas, stationaru fuels, refrigerants, electricity, business travel, solid waste, transmission & distribution loss, commute and supply chain.

A graph showing PCC’s change in greenhouse gas inventory since 2013.


The Portland Community College Sustainability Department completes an annual greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory to monitor our institution’s progress towards meeting our GHG reduction targets as outlined in PCC’s 2021 Climate Action Plan: Resiliency, Equity, and Education for a Just Transition.

This most recent update sets a new target date of 2040 for Carbon Neutrality from Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Using science-based targets as the model for reduction, PCC took the available information on the college’s emissions and aligned the reduction targets so that PCC’s contribution to limiting global warming would not exceed 1.5°C, in support of equitable climate action. Recognizing that the ecological and social destruction caused by rising global temperatures will disproportionately affect those who contributed least to climate change, PCC must work to limit climate change contributions in alignment with a global need for GHG emissions not to exceed 1.5°C, which is the threshold scientists have identified to protect many low-lying and island nations from disastrous sea level rise.

In addition to setting new carbon neutrality targets, the plan outlines five-year goals to be met in the areas of all Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, currently tracked Scope 3 GHG emissions, education and outreach, and resiliency. Equity is embedded throughout PCC’s Climate Action Plan.

About PCC’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

PCC’s greenhouse gas emissions are influenced by student and educational needs, staff commuting behavior, electronics use, operational efficiency, building design, utility choices, individual choices, and purchasing behavior. We look at our emissions in terms of the amount of direct influence we have and divide them by scope accordingly. Our Scope I & II emissions chiefly consist of emissions from heating and lighting buildings and running electrical equipment and are where PCC has the greatest opportunity to influence change, through green building design and improvements in operations, energy efficiency, and education and outreach.

Our Scope III emissions are more challenging to both measure and influence. They include emissions from commuting to the college by both staff and employees, college purchases of goods and services, and business travel. Both supply chain emissions and commuting emissions have unique challenges in terms of measuring change. While we have undertaken many significant projects to reduce the emissions from our supply chain through greener purchasing, supply chain emissions are chiefly measured by spending and it is difficult to separate green spending from non-green spending at this time. Furthermore, commuting emissions tend to fluctuate with student enrollment and while significant commuters utilize alternative transportation, the sheer number of people commuting to campus each day overshadows this.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

Operating Buildings and Grounds (Scope I and II Emissions)
  • Between 2006 and 2020, we reduced our emissions at PCC from operating our Buildings and Grounds (Scope I and II emissions) by approximately 66% with emissions of  7,853 compared to 22,959 in 2006.
  • Building energy consumption associated with greenhouse gas emissions has seen a significant reduction of over 44% over our 2006 baseline, despite an increase of space at the college of nearly 32%.
  • Overall, we’ve decreased our total building energy consumption use per square foot by 58%. PCC’s innovative investment in LEED-certified green buildings, lighting upgrades, and behavior change programs such as Power Shift and Panther Print has helped to reduce energy use and climate change impacts.
Travel, Commuting, Purchasing, and Solid Waste (Scope III Emissions)

Overall Scope III emissions made up the largest share of PCC’s emissions at 82.9%. Scope III emissions are tied to our enrollment levels as they are based on our spending patterns and student commuting patterns.

The largest contributors to scope III are commuting emissions and purchases made by the college. Commuting emissions made up about 47.4% of the Scope III emissions, while emissions from purchases (aka our supply chain) made up 31.2% of emissions. Business travel is relatively small at around 2.2%, while solid waste made up less than 1% of emissions. The college has also taken on significant initiatives to help address these sources of emissions. For example, providing options for students to green their commute to school includes providing inter-campus shuttles, offering subsidized bus passes to students, supporting public transportation to our facilities, and using grants to promote active transportation such as bicycling and walking; however, other factors have our community driving more and taking longer routes to the college. We are also working closely with the Purchasing Department and other college buyers to advance sustainable purchasing practices.

The Impact of the Global Pandemic on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The global pandemic reduced our operational footprint significantly for the period from March 2020 to June 2020. In FY 2020, PCC’s Scope I and II emissions were approximately 7,853 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, 4,296 metric tons of CO2 equivalent lower than in FY 2019. This is due in part to two factors, a temporary increase in renewable energy credits and the change to remote operations that began in March of 2020.

We expect wide variability in the amount of energy consumption at the college as we move through the various stages of reopening. Additional guidance for air handling for the pandemic requires more outside air coming into the buildings than has been required in the past. That air will require additional heating and or cooling and thus consume more energy In addition, college buildings are not entirely “off” while closed; the buildings must be kept at sufficient temperatures to prevent freezing pipes, maintain the energy systems, and provide comfortable access for custodial services.

PCC’s non-commuting Scope III emissions dropped by approximately 31% over FY 2019 Scope III emissions. Most of this drop is likely due to the temporary college travel ban and purchasing freeze that began in March 2020. This drop represents a reduction of 6,835 metric tons of CO2 equivalent commuting changes are not accounted for in this drop. Categories of emissions in Scope III have always been heavily estimated.  Our methodology for Scope III emissions has always been based on fall enrollment figures and while Scope III commuting emissions likely dropped, there is no way of determining by how much for FY 2020.

Future Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction

Notably, PCC is increasing its support for renewable energy substantially over the next two to three years. Agreements to purchase renewable energy through PGE’s Green Future Enterprise and Green Future Impact programs will reduce our carbon footprint through 2040, at which time Oregon’s 100% renewable electricity standard is expected to be in full effect. In addition, PCC is a subscriber to community solar through participation in community solar through Oregon Shines, which also reduces our carbon footprint.

The college is working on a wide variety of initiatives to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint. Many of these efforts are outlined in the Climate Action Plan and Sustainability Leadership Council annual work plans. If you would like to learn more or are interested in getting involved, email sustainability@pcc.edu.