Walking Our Talk: UCS Sustainability Report 2011

Each year UCS conducts a rigorous analysis of its sustainability efforts, with a focus on measuring the carbon emissions generated by the organization's internal operations.

Though our policy successes in the climate, energy, and vehicles realms help achieve reductions in emissions exponentially greater than what we generate as an organization, UCS also strives to achieve all possible reductions in energy use and carbon emissions as part of our ongoing effort to model our commitment to a more sustainable world through our own internal practices.

The results of this annual analysis provide a critical tool to manage and continually improve our operational carbon footprint.

Total Carbon Emissions 2009 – 2011

The clearest way to contextualize all UCS carbon emissions would be to present them in comparison against the emissions of other similar organizations. However, because the field of carbon reporting is so young, and thus the disparities inmeasurement are so large, we benchmark our carbon emissions against our own emissions on a year-to-year basis.

  • Total UCS emissions for 2011 were 837.71 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), an increase of 4.3 percent over 2009 and 13.7 percent over 2010.
  • Compared to 2010, organization-wide electricity use fell by just over 1 percent and our impacts from paper use were down 3.9 percent, while emissions from employee commuting, natural gas use, and business travel increased over 2010 levels. In addition to this uptick in our operations, improvements in our reporting methodology also contributed to the overall emissions increase. The exact breakdown is as follows:

Carbon Emissions per Employee 2009 – 2011

  • Though our total emissions have increased in absolute terms, a better indicator of our progress is how the intensity of these emissions — the amount of carbon emissions per employee — has changed over time.
  • By this measure, emissions per employee declined by more than 3 percent between 2009 – 2011, even as the organization's headcount increased by more than 8 percent.

Our Goals for Improvement

As part of our ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions from internal operations, UCS has developed several goals to be accomplished by September 30, 2014:

  • Achieve all possible energy reductions to both save costs and reduce carbon emissions. As part of this effort, we will improve the granularity of our energy use data in order to better understand the central drivers of energy consumption in each of our offices, e.g., how much power is used by heating and cooling vs. our internal IT infrastructure. We hope to pilot this improved data collection in our Massachusetts headquarters, where we own our share of the building and have the submetering in place that would make this possible.
  • Reduce the emissions from employee commuting by 10 percent, including efforts to incentivize carpooling and other lower-carbon forms of commuting, such as biking, walking, and public transit.
  • Continue the sustainability projects we have begun over the last five years, including Bike-to-Work Month, an annual, month-long challenge for staff to embrace low-carbon commuting; the delivery of local, organic produce from community-supported agriculture to our Cambridge, MA, and Washington, DC, offices; composting all possible waste from our Cambridge and DC offices, and working to ensure that composting is possible in our Berkeley, CA, office; and sustainability brown bags, where we regularly bring staff together to discuss issues related to organizational and personal sustainability.

We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.