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e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Carbon Management

The Sustainability Division has been tracking and working to reduce ESF's carbon footprint since 2007 when former President Cornelius B. Murphy formally committed the College to carbon neutrality by becoming a charter signatory of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment.

In 2009, ESF completed a full inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a Climate Action Plan to save energy, reduce fossil fuel use, and reduce emissions to the greatest extent possible. The plan included the construction of the LEED Platinum Gateway Center and integrated combined heat and power plant (CHP), which has since been constructed and commissioned.

Through the implementation of clean energy systems, energy conservation and efficiency, and facilities stewardship, ESF has reduced energy use and lowered its annual campus carbon footprint by 25% since 2007.

Opportunities for further improvement exist. In 2020, ESF worked with Ramboll and NYSERDA to create a Clean Energy Master Plan that modeled scenarios for deep decarbonisation and showed potential for ESF to reduce GHGs by another 15% (to total a 40% reduction from the 2007 baseline) in the near term and 80% reduction from the baseline over the long term using a mix of clean energy technologies and strategies.

ESF manages 25,000 acres of College forest properties that sequester carbon from the atmosphere in the form of standing biomass in the forest. ESF staff and students monitor forest growth across a series of permanent plots each year. ESF Forest Properties staff manage the annual ESF forest inventory data and makes it publicly available open access on the web. The GHG emissions, or metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e), sequestered in standing forest biomass is calculated by ESF Forestry Professors for comparison with institutional GHG emissions.

The annual aboveground carbon sequestration of College forests is about four times the College's baseline carbon footprint. ESF forests are sequestering more GHG's from the atmopshere every year than the College emits.

With sustainable forest management, forests can continue to grow, sequester additional carbon in standing biomass each year, while also providing a range of other goods, ecosystem services and opportunities for teaching and research.

Summary of forest inventory methods

"SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) based in Syracuse, New York, maintains a series of Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) permanent plots on their Forest Properties. ESF has over 700 CFI plots located on 5 different properties, four properties in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York and one property south of Syracuse. Plots cover northern hardwood species including sugar maple, red maple, yellow birch, beech, white ash, red oak, white pine, hemlock, red spruce, and pine/softwood plantations of various species. Data is collected at ten year intervals on each property starting from initial plot establishment. Plot information collected includes: location information, slope, aspect, forest type, cutting history, and photo of plot. Tree information/measurements include (in general, trees greater than 3.6 inches diameter at breast height): tree tag number, species, tree history, diameter at breast height, sawlog height, bole height, total height, crown vigor, crown class, tree location, and tree notes. Data is collected/field checked/edited according to detailed written procedures by ESF professional staff with assistance of students. Data is collected to monitor general forest health, growth rates, mortality, and overall forest metrics. Data is used to calculate standing volumes, stocking of forest trees, carbon stocking in addition to other information."

Breitmeyer, B.W., M.K. Gooden, M.J. Appleby, R. Ash, and J. Rahn. 2019. Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI), 1970-2017, Long-term Forest Property Monitoring by State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, New York, USA ver 1. Environmental Data Initiative. https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/5f2eb71d634b9ca1ec3c37effa557d33 (Accessed 2020-11-19).

ESF is committed to a comprehensive approach to mitigating the College's carbon footprint including energy conservation and efficiency, green building, building controls, clean energy systems, virtual power purchase agreements, electrification, and deep decarbonization. ESF is evaluating ways to further monitor and mitigate the College's carbon footprint and contribute to climate action including:

  • Quantifying and including additional GHG sinks, sources and fluxes in the ESF carbon budget, such as belowground forest biomass;

  • Research on remote sensing of continuous forest inventory plots;

  • Visualizations of forest regeneration and carbon sequestration over time;

  • Second Nature Carbon Offset Network projects such as community tree plantings;

  • Forest carbon policy and management strategies;

  • Application of PAVER metrics to offset and sequestration projects;

  • Outreach and curriculum integration.


Justin Heavey
Sustainability and Research Programs Manager