Campus Carbon Calculator FAQs

Please, note that we are migrating to a new tool in September, called SIMAP. For more information, read this.  

This FAQ addresses specific CCC issues, and will be updated as problems are brought to the fore by users like you.  If you’d like a general introduction to using the Excel-based CCC, see our CCC Orientation. If you have questions about the web-based adaptation of the CCC--CarbonMAP--please see the CarbonMAP FAQs.

  • What is the Campus Carbon Calculator?

The Campus Carbon Calculator (CCC) is an MS Excel-based spreadsheet tool that provides procedural protocols and a framework for investigation of campus GHG emissions. It is based on workbooks by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for national inventories and the methodologies and calculators of the GHG Protocol, and has been adapted for higher education institutional use. The data collection module includes the following major emissions sources: on-campus energy production; purchased electricity; transportation (including air travel and commuting); waste; agriculture; and refrigerants.

The Second Nature team has recommended the CCC to Climate Commitment signatories because it is based on the GHG Protocol methodology, but adapted for campus use. It has been designed to be used by undergraduate or graduate level students, interns, or employees in a semester or less. The calculator covers all sources within the defined scopes of the Carbon Commitment (see the Implementation Guide for more information), and allows users to input the exact fuel mix used for generation by their electricity provider, which provides a more accurate and precise picture of organizational emissions (the GHG Protocol uses a generalized regional mix). It is our belief that the CCC is the most user-friendly and appropriate tool currently available for application in the higher education context.

  • Exactly what emissions sources and sinks does it allow schools to track?

Scope 1: Emissions from…

  • Combusting fuels on campus for heating and cooling
  • Combusting fuels to power campus-owned transportation vehicles
  • Off-gassing of fertilizers used on campus
  • Livestock (methane released either directly from the animal or from manure)
  • Fugitive release of refrigerants and chemicals that are GHGs

Scope 2: Emissions from…

  • Off-campus combustion of fuels to produce electricity, steam or chilled water for the campus

Scope 3: Emissions from…

  • Daily commuting by students/staff/faculty (fuel combusted in vehicles)
  • Air or ground travel on university business or for study abroad (fuel combusted in personal or transit vehicles/aircraft)
  • Trash disposal (landfill methane and/or emissions from incineration only)
  • Wastewater treatment (methane off-gassed and/or energy used)
  • The production of office/copy paper (energy used in production only)


  • Purchased RECs
  • Forest preservation
  • On-campus composting
  • Does the CCC use the most current global warming potentials (GWPs)?

The current version of the Calculator (v9.0) uses GWP values from the IPCC 4th Assessment Report. The full table of GWPs can be found here.

  • Does the CCC track recycling?

The current version of the CCC (v9.0) does not account for downstream emissions associated with recycled waste. Our online tool, CarbonMAP, is capable of tracking recycling data, but does not include this in emissions calculations.

  • I updated my CCC file to the latest version, and now my emissions totals are different. Help!

If the results that are different in your Scope 2 emissions, the first thing you should check is whether you selected your appropriate eGRID subregion in the new version of the Calculator. Click on the Input tab, and scroll over to Scope 2 Emissions Sources. Click the link under Purchased Electricity to set the correct eGRID subregion, both pre- and post-2006.

In addition for all of the categories, we update emissions factors as they become available. This can result in changes--even retroactive changes--in your emissions totals, because there is generally a lag in availability for emissions factors for one-five years past.  It's important that you and your campus stakeholders undertstand that the Calculator (as with any GHG inventory calculation tool) can only give you an ESTIMATE of your emissions; the final numbers are going to be something of a moving target.  

For a list of changes between previous versions of the Calculator to this one, see the Appendices in the User's Guide.  This list can help you track back and determine which changes are due to better available emissions factor information as opposed to changes of "activity data" on your campus.