Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

GHG Inventory Update 2021

Graph alt text: GHG showing the reduction of greenhouse emissions at PCC since our last Climate Action Plan in 2013. The graph runs on a July-June fiscal year and displays the following emissions categories: supply chain, commute, T&D loss, solid waste, business travel, electricity, refrigerants, stationary fuels, natural gas, and fleet (biogenic and anthropogenic). Further details can be found in the text of this page.PCC started campus closure in March 2020. The college was mostly closed for remote operations during FY 2021 with fewer than 1,000 people commuting to campus.


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 2021, we reduced our emissions at PCC from operating our Buildings and Grounds (Scope I & II emissions) by approximately 47% with emissions of  12,156  metric tons of CO2E compared to 22,959 metric tons of CO2E in 2006.
  • Building energy consumption associated with greenhouse gas emissions has seen a significant reduction of approximately 50.5% over our 2006 baseline, despite an increase of space at the college of over 33%.
  • Overall, we’ve decreased our total building energy consumption use per square foot by nearly 63%. 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 47.6%. Scope III emissions are tied to our enrollment levels as they are based on our spending patterns and student commuting patterns.

The largest contributor to scope III in FY 2021 was purchases made by the college. Commuting emissions made up less than 2.5% of the Scope III emissions, while emissions from purchases (aka our supply chain) made up the majority of the remainder of Scope III emissions. Business travel and solid waste combined made up less than 1% of emissions. Commuting, business travel, and solid waste were significantly reduced due to the ongoing pandemic. 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 affected our operational footprint significantly for the period during FY 2021, in which PCC operated almost entirely remotely. In FY 2021, PCC’s Scope I & II emissions were approximately 12,156 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, nearly the same as the year prior to the pandemic.

PCC’s Scope III emissions dropped by approximately 74% over FY 2019 Scope III emissions, the last year PCC was fully open. In addition to a huge reduction in college travel, we were able to estimate changes in commuting habits. Categories of emissions in Scope III have always been heavily estimated. This year’s estimate was created from estimates of the following three items 1) the number of students enrolled in courses that required hands-on learning, 2) the number of essential college employees needed for remote operations (e.g. custodial, maintenance, grounds, and public safety staff) and 3) FTE visits to campus from a log that Public Safety keeps. In addition, spending on water, food, and travel has dropped.

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  PCC’s 2021 Climate Action Plan: Resiliency, Equity, and Education for a Just Transition and Sustainability Leadership Council annual work plans. If you would like to learn more or are interested in getting involved, email sustainability@pcc.edu.