Three Rivers Assessment of Carbon Emissions (TRACE)

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s large institutions have a clear responsibility to lead the region’s journey to a carbon-free future. In particular, our region’s higher education institutions are a cornerstone of regional economic transformation and are molding the next generation of citizens.

350 Pittsburgh has created the Three Rivers Assessment of Carbon Emissions (TRACE) scorecard to connect those schools’ own efforts towards carbon neutrality with the larger community.

Results from the 2024 TRACE Pilot

In 2023, 350 Pittsburgh created the TRACE scorecard and ran a pilot program to assess Carnegie Mellon University, Middlebury College, University of Pittsburgh, and Robert Morris University. The pilot report summarizing the results for each of the schools and overall learnings is available below as are the reports for the individual schools.

TRACE Quick Answers

At 350 Pittsburgh, we have noticed a recent behavior shift toward climate change action at many of southwestern Pennsylvania’s large institutions. Rather than resisting or avoiding action, they are beginning to act. Many of these institutions have taken substantial steps toward reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieving carbon neutrality. We believe there is a need for clear and transparent communication and leadership for the region as a whole. This requires an independent assessment of the schools’ progress.

Given their size, visibility, and importance to the region, 350 Pittsburgh has paid particular attention to the ten schools that make up the Higher Education Climate Consortium (HECC). These schools represent the “Eds” portion of the “Eds and Meds” transition that is so critical to the regional economy.

Each of five assessment categories: Commitments, Goals and Objectives, Institution Structures and Plan, Transparency, and Education and Research has one to three individually scored attributes. Each attribute is given a score from 1 to 100 and combined to a weighted total. Each category and attribute is given a weight according to our priority assessment. The total score is then assigned a letter grade from A to F based on where it falls within predefined bands. We expect the categories, attributes, weights, and bands to evolve as needed from year to year. We have made each attribute’s scoring as objective as possible. Where not possible, 350 Pittsburgh discusses the attribute score with the scorer to assure scoring judgment is consistent across schools.

We’ve found it rewarding to enlist students at each university in scoring their own schools. Where we’ve done this, students have embraced the activity and found it a valuable way to learn about their own school’s actions. It has also enabled them to develop constructive relationships with the school’s sustainability leadership. When possible, we’ve used an on campus student group to undertake the scoring as a group activity. When not possible, we’ve sought out an interested and engaged student to take it on with the support and guidance of 350 Pittsburgh. We plan to expand this student engagement approach to all ten schools.

We always welcome new volunteers to join our team; there are many different types and levels of involvement. Please feel free to reach out to us via email at [email protected] if you:

  • are a student at one of the HECC schools and are interested in participating in the scoring
  • are faculty or staff at one of the HECC schools and would like to discuss how to support scoring at your school
  • want to volunteer with 350 Pittsburgh on future TRACE editions
  • have comments or questions

Contact the 350 Pittsburgh TRACE Team

Email us at [email protected]
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