The methodology and results of using life cycle assessment to measure and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions footprint of “Major Events” at the University of Arizona

Leah Edwards, Jake Knight, Robert Handler, Joseph Abraham, Paul Blowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: In 2012 and 2013, the University of Arizona’s Office of Sustainability conducted environmental life cycle assessments of two Homecoming events that drew 60,000 attendees each. Based on reviews of published literature, this is the first time that a process-based life cycle assessment has been conducted for an event of this size. This study contributes to the small but growing field of research using life cycle assessment to track the environmental impacts of events. Methods: The assessments at The University of Arizona considered the environmental impact of food, materials, waste, travel, and lodging. The effects of these components of Homecoming weekend were evaluated in terms of nine different categories. However, this paper focuses on greenhouse gas emissions. The data collection process for these assessments was completed by student observers and supplemented with information provided by university departments, event organizers, and survey responses from attendees. Data were analyzed using SimaPro Life Cycle Assessment software and using data from the EcoInvent database. Based on the results of the 2012 study, initiatives were put into place for 2013 that were designed to reduce the environmental impact of the subsequent Homecoming event. Results and discussion: The results show that the total impact of Homecoming 2012 was an estimated 2400 metric tons of CO2-eq, whereas the impact of Homecoming 2013 was an estimated 1900 metric tons of CO2-eq, a 19 % decrease year over year. Data were analyzed in terms of carbon dioxide emissions in both years. Travel made up the majority of the environmental impact (82.04 % in 2012 and 77.77 % in 2013), followed by accommodations (17.5 % in 2012 and 19.31 % in 2013), with energy, materials, and food having almost negligible impacts (0.46 % in 2012 and 2.92 % in 2013). While there had been noticeable changes in the measured impact of food and energy between 2012 and 2013, the significant impact of travel overshadowed all other impact categories in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, making these changes less noticeable. Analysis of each of these categories of impact helped to establish best practices for mitigating the impact of events on a category-by-category basis. Conclusions: This study introduces a framework for assessing impacts of a large university event while also highlighting ways to reduce impacts. The initiatives implemented in 2013 to reduce impacts of large-scale events can be informative to others working to reduce emissions at large events. Additional recommendations to reduce impacts of large events are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-554
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Carbon footprint
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Sporting event
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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