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Carbon Offsets

Dickinson has reached its 2020 carbon neutrality goal, but there is still more work to do. We’ve made great progress reducing our emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases through energy conservation, renewable energy and other projects. But to maintain zero net emissions, we will need to continue to offset emissions that we cannot currently avoid.

We are partnering with Cool Effect, a nonprofit founded by a Dickinson family, to provide an opportunity for members of the Dickinson community to purchase carbon offsets on behalf of Dickinson. Carbon offsets purchased through this initiative will be used to reduce Dickinson’s gross emissions. The contributions will support a range of carbon projects on the Cool Effect platform including forest projects from Alaska to Africa, grassland projects in our great plains, and even cookstoves projects in some of the most remote places on earth.

Dickinson students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff are invited to donate offsets to Dickinson. Purchasing one metric ton of carbon offsets, enough to offset a domestic round-trip flight for winter break, costs $14.62. Two metric tons, enough to offset an international round-trip flight for study abroad, would cost $29.24. Or you could offset 12,500 miles of driving by purchasing five metric tons for $73.10.

Offset your carbon today through Cool Effect and Dickinson. Working together, we can take effective and responsible action to limit the negative impacts of climate change.

Check out the FAQ below:

Why carbon offsets?

Dickinson gives priority to actions that cut our carbon emissions, and we have made substantial progress. But it is not feasible to completely eliminate all college emissions given the existing economic and energy systems within which we operate. To responsibly address the emissions that we cannot currently avoid, Dickinson is choosing to engage with partners beyond the limestone walls in actions that reduce the carbon emissions of others.

Purchasing carbon offsets provides financing for projects that verifiably reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) entering the atmosphere. Projects could be anything from supporting wind-powered energy, to reducing the amount of fuel required to cook dinner and heat homes, to protecting forests that absorb and sequester CO₂. High-quality carbon reduction projects typically go through a third-party verification process to prove that they are reducing GHGs and to determine the quantity of offsets they can sell. Selling offsets provides revenues to grow the projects and keep more GHGs out of the atmosphere.

Dickinson has chosen to work with Cool Effect to offset our carbon emissions. By purchasing carbon offsets through Cool Effect, Dickinsonians benefit the planet while helping the college meet its commitment to be carbon neutral.


Go to the Dickinson – Cool Effect Portal

Why Cool Effect?

Cool Effect has a solid reputation for carbon reduction projects. Plus, we are connected to Cool Effect through a Dickinson alumnus and his parents. How cool is that?

Dickinson is partnering with Cool Effect because Cool Effect rigorously evaluates and validates carbon reduction projects to ensure that they are scientifically, financially and ethically sound. Cool Effect researches, authenticates and carefully selects quality projects that meet the highest standards for delivering proven emission reductions. Cool Effect is also a nonprofit, and more than 90 percent of the purchase price of each carbon offset goes directly to the projects. 

Cool Effect was founded by Dee and Richard Lawrence, parents of Dickinson alumnus Blake Lawrence, class of 2013. Blake is the marketing manager at Cool Effect. 

What has Dickinson done to reduce emissions?

Dickinson has cut its annual emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs by about 30 percent since 2008, from nearly 15,000 metric tons to roughly 9,000 metric tons. We’ve done this through energy conservation programs, energy efficient technologies, green building practices, and renewable energy credits. We have reduced emissions while producing cost savings for Dickinson that are directed to our Green Revolving Fund and used to finance new projects.

Examples of recent projects:

  • Dickinson Park Solar Field: Dickinson signed a 25-year power-purchasing agreement in 2018 with Tesla for installation of a 3-megawatt solar photovoltaic system at Dickinson Park. The system started delivering power in January 2019 and is projected to produce an average of 4.8 million kWh per year of clean, carbon-free electric power. The Solar Field will supply about 25 percent of Dickinson’s annual electricity consumption and will reduce Dickinson’s GHG emissions by approximately 2000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.  
  • LED Blitz: Dickinson converted nearly all indoor and outdoor lighting to LED in 2017 and 2018. The LED lights are projected to reduce annual electricity use by 2 million kWh per year and reduce GHG emissions by 750 metric tons. The switch to LED had an initial cost of $360,000, compared to conventional lighting, and saves Dickinson an estimated $150,000 every year in electric utility costs. 
  • Water Chiller Improvements: Upgrades to the water chillers in Dickinson’s central energy plant were needed to improve the flow of chilled water to supply the new High Street Residence Hall and other buildings on the south side of High Street. Dickinson used the opportunity to update the software used to control the chillers, water pumps, and flow valves to improve the efficiency of the system. The project also includes replacement of existing valves with variable flow valves for more efficient operation. The project, which cost $400,000, is projected to reduce electricity use by 325,000 kWh per year, save $32,000 in electricity costs each year, and reduce annual emissions by 130 metric tons.  
  • Efficient Water Heaters: 25 water heaters in residence halls and other buildings that had been identified as needing replacement in Dickinson’s deferred maintenance plan were replaced in 2018 with high efficiency models. The total cost for the high efficiency water heaters was $120,000, which is about $18,000 more than replacement with less efficient models. The more efficient water heaters are projected to use 15 percent less energy than conventional models, saving $15,000 per year and reducing annual emissions 40 metric tons. 

Dickinson is continuing to pursue actions that will yield further emission reductions. These include improving energy efficiencies in the Rector Science Complex, modernizing Dickinson’s small residential houses, replacing steam traps in the network of pipes that distribute steam and hot water from the central energy plant, replacing thermostats to enhance energy management in buildings heated with electricity, using remote energy monitoring data to identify and correct problems in performance of building energy systems and developing additional solar photovoltaic systems on campus. 

What else can I do?

Buying carbon offsets is a great way to help Dickinson reach its carbon neutrality goal. But all of us are called on to do more to combat the climate crisis. It's critical to make your voice heard and join with others to create the political will for municipal, state and federal action on climate change. There are also lots of things you can do to reduce Dickinson’s and your personal carbon footprints. Here are some examples:

  • Drive less. Walk, bike, ride public transit and carpool to get to work and other destinations. When choosing your next place to live, live where these options are easy.
  • Fly less. How many flights did you make last year? Can you commit to flying one time less? How about two?
  • Eat a plant-rich diet. Substitute plant-based sources of protein for meat and dairy. Don’t want to give up meat completely? Try eating less meat, particularly beef, and more plants, which can produce a large carbon benefit.
  • Reduce food waste.
  • Turn off, unplug, power down.
  • Purchase consciously. Take care of the things you buy so they last a long time. Waste less. Buy less. Buy used. Buy things made with recycled materials. Look for the Energy Star label. Look for products with small carbon and ecological footprints.
  • Set back thermostats, weatherize and insulate.
  • Buy an electric vehicle. If you must have a car, make your next one electric.
  • Purchase green energy.
How much will it cost?

You can offset your travel emissions through the Cool Effect project portflios and donate the offsets to Dickinson at a cost of $14.62 per metric ton of CO2. How many metric tons of offsets would you need to purchase to offset your travel? Here are some examples:

  Estimated MTCO2 Cost of offsets
One domestic flight 1 $14.62
One international flight 2 $29.24
One year of domestic frequent flying (6 domestic flights) 6 $87.72
One year international frequent flying (4 international flights) 8 $116.96
Driving 2,500 miles in a car 1 $14.62
One year of driving 12,500 miles 5 $73.10


Go to the Dickinson – Cool Effect Portal


Why focus on emissions from travel?

Travel is a substantial source of carbon emissions in the U.S., accounting for nearly 30 percent of annual emissions. Each of us contributes to these emissions by driving, flying and traveling via other modes that rely on fossil energy. Correspondingly, each of us has a responsibility to cut emissions from our travel activities. 

Travel is also a major source of Dickinson’s emissions, producing about 30% percent of the college’s emissions. This includes our students’ travel for study abroad, travel by staff on college business and employee commuting. 

We’ve made some progress in limiting Dickinson’s travel-related emissions. But reducing emissions from travel is particularly challenging in comparison to reducing emissions from other sources. And Dickinson remains committed to global education as essential to our mission of educating for the common good.

We will continue to tackle our travel emissions by promoting low- and zero-emission commuting choices, reducing the miles we travel, and improving the management and efficiency of college-owned vehicles. But our travel emissions cannot be eliminated given current options. 

This makes carbon offsets a good choice for counterbalancing our travel emissions.