Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Tavey Capps
Submission Date Feb. 25, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Duke University
IN-1: Innovation 1

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Charles Adair
Program Manager
Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome :

Duke University established the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) in 2009 to develop the University’s strategy for meeting its offset goals in a way that provides significant local environmental, economic, and societal co-benefits beyond the benefits of greenhouse gas emission reductions. These goals include generating approximately 180,000 metric tons of CO2e in emission reductions (approximately 55% of the University's emissions baseline) by 2024 and annually thereafter to meet the University's climate neutrality commitment, to supply the internal University community with offsets in the near term, and to serve as a resource for other universities and organizations, particularly those in the Southeast, that are interested in generating or purchasing offsets. The Initiative works both within Duke University and outside the University with other institutions and partners to build meaningful offset projects and to facilitate and catalyze the development of offset projects and offset market transactions, particularly those projects and transactions which offer innovative and cost-effective approaches.

DCOI is an innovative and unique program in that it is currently the only program at any University that focuses solely on designing, developing, implementing and scaling local offset projects with significant co-benefits. In addition, the Initiative ties back all projects to Duke University’s academic mission by working closely with students, staff, and faculty on each of its projects. By using the resources and expertise available on campus, DCOI is working to create voluntary offset protocols that can be used by other universities to replicate offset projects in their regions. Finally, by having a team focused solely on offset projects, Duke University has been able to explore and accelerate unique project types in order to make these new project types accessible to other schools.

DCOI is currently piloting three carbon offset project types: swine-based agricultural methane, energy efficiency/renewable energy, and forestry. The University first focused on swine waste-to-energy because of the large number of swine farms in the state and the opportunity they present to eliminate a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions in ways that will generate renewable energy and solve other major pollution problems, such as nutrient loading and odors. Currently, the Initiative is partnering with Duke Energy, Google Inc., and a North Carolina farm to pilot the first anaerobic-digester based innovative swine waste management system which meets stringent environmental performance standards and produces renewable energy to help Duke Energy meet its renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard commitment for swine-based energy.

The University is also piloting an employee-based energy efficiency program in the local community that encourages Duke employees to implement weatherization upgrades to their homes through a revolving loan mechanism. This groundbreaking pilot project is testing the ability of creative financing mechanisms to reduce the cost of carbon offsets from energy efficiency, while the University will use its special expertise in the area to develop workable carbon accounting methodology. Also under development is a renewable energy pilot that looks to provide employees with information and discounts for renewable energy for their homes. In the end, the Offsets Initiative hopes to make energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at the household level easily accessible by providing education to employee homeowners to help them identify and navigate energy efficiency/renewable energy options, make these projects financially feasible, and connect employees to a network of vetted contractors. Thus, Duke’s own employees will help it meets its climate neutrality commitment, making it truly a Duke community effort. The University will also collect data and conduct research on program results in order to identify and share best practices with other colleges and universities.

Finally, with respect to forestry-based offset projects, the University is evaluating opportunities to develop projects involving afforestation, avoided conversion and improved forest management. The University is working with the City and County of Durham to develop an urban forestry offsets pilot program. Through this program, the University will provide resources to help plant trees locally in exchange for the emission reductions associated with those trees.

Next on the University’s list is carbon offsets from Peatland restoration. Working with faculty and staff from the Duke University Wetland Center and the Climate Action Reserve, DCOI is exploring the possibility of using carbon offsets as a monetization mechanism to fund wetland restoration in the Carolinas.

In addition to these specific projects, the Offsets Initiative has been working with a small group of colleges and universities who receive support from The Duke Endowment foundation to assist them in evaluating offset projects and strategies and is often consulted with at the state and national levels on offset project development and policy. Duke University continues to work with students, faculty, and staff on identifying and implementing new offset projects.


A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):
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A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of 5):
Yes or No
Curriculum ---
Research Yes
Campus Engagement Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Air & Climate ---
Buildings ---
Dining Services ---
Energy Yes
Grounds ---
Purchasing ---
Transportation ---
Waste Yes
Water ---
Coordination, Planning & Governance ---
Diversity & Affordability ---
Health, Wellbeing & Work ---
Investment ---

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:
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The website URL where information about the innovation is available :

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