Goal: Achieve a 20% reduction in energy use in buildings built prior to Duke's 2009 Climate Action Plan by 2030 while maximizing opportunities for building energy efficiency and low carbon, new construction.

Over the past two years, there have been major shifts in the future of Duke University’s energy procurement and use. The resulting investments will lead to significant decreases in Duke’s annual GHG emissions. Below are three examples of how Duke is working to meet its carbon neutrality commitment through energy emission reductions.


Due to the creation of the Green Source Advantage program in North Carolina, for the first time, Duke University has been able to invest in a large-scale, off-campus, solar installation. This 101-megawatt solar project will be fully operational in 2024, and is projected to provide 50% of the University’s electricity and will reduce GHG emissions by 57,000 metric tons annually.


Building off of Duke’s past efforts in renewable natural gas, Duke University has entered into a partnership with GreenGasUSA, a South Carolina-based biogas provider to purchase renewable natural gas from a vegetable cannery in SC. The project will provide enough renewable natural gas to reduce Duke’s GHG emissions by 55,000 metric tons annually.

Building energy efficiency

Over the past two years, Duke University has continued to increase the efficiency of buildings and utility plants on campus. The transition to LED lighting across campus now covers over 4 million square feet of building space. The Facilities Management Department has also been investing in a changeover from steam to hot water in appropriate building systems, which is a more efficient way to condition buildings and provide domestic hot water.

energy emission reductions chart
Based on estimates from fiscal year 2021, Duke estimates to reduce its energy emissions through a myriad of initiatives including offsite solar, renewable natural gas, campus utility infrastructure efficiency upgrades, building energy efficiency upgrades, and Duke Energy's decarbonization efforts. In total, all initiatives are estimated to reduce Duke's emissions by 179,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.


Goal: Focus water-reduction strategies on the top 20 water-consuming buildings, which account for 70% of water use.

Duke continues to maintain significant reductions in potable water use on campus, achieving a 30% reduction per gross square foot of building space since 2006. The past two years also saw a decrease in the number of students, staff and faculty on campus, leading to a reduction of nearly 90 million gallons of water use in fiscal year 2020. However, as students returned to campus and Duke returned to in-person teaching in 2021, water use increased to pre-pandemic levels. 

chart of Duke's historical water use
Duke University has reduced its potable water use per square foot of building space by 30% between fiscal years 2007 and 2021.

Natural Resources

Goal: Ensure that buildings, landscapes, and natural areas are created and sustained to create a campus community that conserves natural resources, restores environmental quality, and protects biodiversity.

Campus Landscaping

The University continues to maintain hundreds of acres of its campus in sustainable ways such as composting landscaping materials and maintaining over 17,000 campus trees. Last year, Duke Gardens converted approximately 3,000 cubic yards of landscape debris (the equivalent of 200 dump truck loads) into 270 cubic yards of mulch and 145 cubic yards of compost. The mulch and compost were used primarily in Duke Gardens, while the rest was used at the Duke Campus Farm, the Hart House, the Smart Home, and by Landscape Services.

90th anniversary of Duke Forest

Duke Forest was founded in 1931 and covers over 7,000 acres of Durham, Orange and Alamance counties. Over the past 90 years, it has exemplified the mission of Sustainable Duke’s Campus as Lab program by serving as a site for a large variety of research, hosting thousands of students to learn about land and natural resource management, and acting as a working forest that sustainably manages its timber according to Forest Stewardship Council specifications. To learn more about Duke Forest and its work, please view the Duke Origins video.