Sustainability award for senior thesis on campus emissions

A recent UC Berkeley graduate has won a sustainability research award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for her senior thesis calculating the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions based on its entire supply chain of goods and services.

Kelley Doyle, who received a B.S. in environmental sciences in May 2012, presented her thesis, “Converting university spending to greenhouse gas emissions: A supply chain carbon footprint analysis of UC Berkeley,” at AASHE’s annual conference in Los Angeles earlier this year. She won the association’s undergraduate research award for 2012.

Kelley Doyle

Kelly Doyle, just after winning her sustainability research award.

Doyle’s thesis, written with support from adviser Chris Jones, a staff research associate in Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, calculates a supply-chain carbon footprint for UC Berkeley based on more than $500 million in procurement expenses in fiscal year 2009. The study presents recommendations to reduce supply-chain greenhouse-gas emissions, identifies opportunities for future study and develops a reproducible tool for UC Berkeley to use in its annual greenhouse-gas emissions reporting.

The method Doyle used to make her calculations of both the magnitude and composition of Berkeley’s footprint— a hybrid top-down life cycle assessment (LCA)—  takes into account issues such as vendor location to create an estimate considered more accurate than previous campus studies, using methodologies advanced by UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, according to Kira Stoll, manager of Berkeley’s Office of Sustainability. Doyle worked with Stoll to provide tools and recommendations to advance improve campus greenhouse-gas reporting, and also co-founded the Greening the Greeks project while at Berkeley.

Stoll says Doyle’s research is important because “there is a demand for industry-specific supply-chain carbon-footprint calculation methods.” Berkeley, like many universities, she says, is committed to reporting and reducing emissions but a standard LCA calculation approach for campuses does not exist.

Doyle’s methodology helps the campus identify procurement habits that result in excessive carbon emissions, Stoll says, and “provides a framework from which the campus can continue to develop a standardized supply chain greenhouse-gas emission report and to regularly report on these emissions.”