UCSF Sustainability Stories

Susan McMullan, Ron Hightower, and Veena Patel, January 2016

MBA Students Develop Pilot Project for UC to Reduce Carbon Emissions from UC Air Travel

Presidio Team Photo A team of MBA students from Presidio Graduate School recently worked with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Office of the President to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from business-related air travel. Through an experiential learning project at Presidio, students Ron Hightower, Susan McMullan, Veena Patel and Danielle Salah partnered with UC to create a pilot program to be implemented at UCLA that could serve as a model for the entire UC system and help decrease carbon emissions state wide.

Based on reporting of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment Reporting System, in 2012, the total GHGs from air travel for all UC campuses was nearly 160,000 metric tons, representing on average 10 percent of the total GHGs.* 

Using data reported from UCLA, the team forecasted the total expected number of trips, mileage and GHG emissions for 2015 and 2016, and the price per carbon ton in 2016. They then estimated the size of the fund needed to offset all air travel.
The team recommended that the air travel offset fee be assessed using a tiered flat fee structure that imposes a different fee for trips: (1) within California, (2) outside California, but in the United States and (3) international travel. It recommended that the UCLA pilot program last from nine months to one year to provide adequate time for evaluation of its operations and benefits.

At the conclusion of the assignment in May 2015, based on the price of carbon and the forecasted travel, the team projected a flat fee of less than five dollars per domestic flight to offset the travel and provide a fund to either purchase verified offsets or to fund on campus projects that would reduce GHGs.

In July, the students presented their work in an interactive session at the California Higher Education Sustainability conference in San Francisco. Above are three members of the team that presented at the conference. Shown from right to left are Susan McMullan, Ron Hightower, and Veena Patel.  Danielle Salah presented remotely.

*2012 was the most recent year in which the largest number of campuses submitted reports. The figures described come from 2012 reports for seven campuses, 2013 reports for two campuses, and a 2011 report for one campus (which was its most recent report).