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Environment and Energy


We measure the University's carbon emissions every year to help us monitor our impact on the environment. This is separated into three different categories, or ‘scopes’ (defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol):

Scope 1: These are emissions that arise directly from sources that are owned or controlled by the University, for example from fuels used in our boilers or the vehicles that departments and Estate Management own;

Scope 2: These are the emissions generated by purchased electricity consumed by the University;

Scope 3: These emissions are a consequence of the activities of an organisation but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the organisation. This includes emissions associated with waste, water, business travel, commuting and procurement.


What can I do to reduce my scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions?

As an organisation, our scope 2 emissions in particular are very high. This largely reflects the high level of scientific and technical research that is undertaken at Cambridge. This form of research often involves the use of research equipment, IT, ventilation and other equipment required to satisfy health and safety and other regulatory requirements. Furthermore, our ‘plug loads’ – arising from additional electrical equipment that is required to support our scientific research – are very significant.

Find out how you can save energy


Scope 3 emissions

The University recently commissioned work to create a 2012/13 baseline of its scope 3 carbon emissions. The University will carry out further work around scope 3 emission reduction following the forthcoming review of the Carbon Management Plan.

This report highlights the indirect, more hidden carbon costs associated with the University's activities. Just over two-thirds of our overall annual carbon emissions were discovered to be the result of scope 3 sources, with procurement of goods and services accounting for over half of the total scope 1, 2 and 3 CO2e footprint.

  • Total scope 3 emissions calculated for 2012/13: approximately 170,000 tonnes of CO2e
  • Overall scope 1 and 2 emissions: approximately 73,000 tonnes CO2e per year

Moving forwards, the commissioned work will enable the Environment and Energy Section to monitor emissions, set SMART targets, and actively seek to reduce the impact that the University has in these areas.

 View the full scope 3 report (opens in a new window)

What can we do to reduce our scope 3 emissions impact?


Carbon emissions arise at every stage in the supply chain. This includes the extraction of resources, refining, production and manufacturing, and transportation and distribution. The University's Head of Environment and Energy and Head of Procurement will be working closely to continue to support the University in tackling these.


Waste can contribute significantly to climate change by producing methane, and there are also emissions involved with the transportation and processing of waste. We aim to encourage a reduction in waste to landfill through fewer unnecessary purchases and an increase in recycling and re-use.


The treatment, distribution and heating of water involves a high amount of energy in various forms. Reducing water use against an increase in estate size will continue to be a challenge for Cambridge.


The University’s Travel Plan sets out objectives, a target and measures to manage the demand for travel and promote sustainable travel within the University.

  • Do you travel for business?
  • Cheaper and lower-carbon commuting

The University has a number of measures in place to support staff in being able to get to work without their cars, and to help with alternatives to air travel. Although we recognise that cycling or public transport is not possible for a number of people, have a look at the Travel pages to see what money-saving opportunities and carbon-saving options may be viable for you.