Oldenburg Renewable Energy Commission members recently completed an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and presented their findings to Oldenburg Town Council members Nov. 4.

Inventory Team members Mike Cambron, Dr. Steve Kristoff and Sister Claire Whalen explained the process.

“A greenhouse gas is a gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere ...(and) is responsible for the rising temperatures,” Kristoff said. The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and water vapor.

“Why would we do this inventory? It gives us a place to start. We want to decrease our carbon footprint, but that’s too vague of a goal, so we came up with a new goal of reducing the carbon dioxide equivalent (which indicates when other greenhouse gases are included in total along with carbon dioxide) by 50% by 2030. This is a pretty ambitious goal, so we have to know where we’re starting.

“This was a communitywide study, but it does not include government buildings and services (unless indicated). We worked all summer on this. We decided to go with 2017 data because that was the latest year we had complete data for.” Oldenburg was the smallest town among 13 other Indiana cities participating in this statewide project through a grant from Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

Six sectors were included: natural gas, electricity, potable water, wastewater, solid waste and vehicle travel. For this study, residential referred to homes and apartments, and commercial included the Sisters of St. Francis convent, Holy Family Catholic Church, Oldenburg Academy and businesses.

The results:

  • Natural gas – 32.9 million cubic feet of natural gas was used, producing 1,747 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Residential accounts emitted 35.6% and commercial accounts, 64.4%. “We received this data from the Batesville Water & Gas Utility,” Cambron noted.
  • Electricity – 5.5 million killowatt-hours of electricity were used, producing 5,028 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent; residential, 35.2%; commercial, 64.8%. “This data came directly from Duke Energy,” Kristoff revealed.
  • Potable water – 16 million gallons of potable water were used, producing 29 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This data was obtained from the Batesville Water & Gas Utility and Oldenburg Utilities. “This total does include water used by local government services because there was no way to break it down for just residential and commercial users,” Whalen said.
  • Wastewater – 144,840 kWh of electricity were used, producing 120 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. No breakdown for the category of users was available, Whalen pointed out.
  • Solid waste – CGS does residential collection and Best Way Disposal does some commercial collection, but neither company was able to offer specific data, Kristoff said. It was estimated that Oldenburg’s solid waste production generates 713 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This was based on an average for the U.S. of 4.4 pounds per person per day for 2013. He added an extra piece of information. “Rumpke, who handles recycling, does keep track of what they collect. In 2018, they collected 45.56 tons of recycling.” This prevented the release of 60 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Vehicle travel – It was estimated that 3.5 million miles were traveled to and from Oldenburg for work and school, producing 1,880 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. “We used U.S. Census data to tell us the amount of miles traveled by people who leave to go to work (outside of the town) and those who come to work here,” Cambron

  • reported. “We didn’t have a way to capture all the traffic, such as people who come to Wagner’s for dinner or to Holy Family for church.”

There was a total of 9,517 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, with an average of 14.1 metric tons per person.

“The national average was 16.5 metric tons per person. It looks like we’re below average, but Oldenburg doesn’t have any industry to be calculated into the total,” Cambron emphasized.

The first steps in reducing the town’s carbon footprint are encouraging residents to calculate their own carbon footprint, monitoring building energy efficiency through energy audits, increasing recycling measures, planting more native trees, driving less and carpooling more, monitoring public utility efforts to diversify their portfolios with renewable energy resources as soon as possible and preparing a greenhouse gas inventory for Oldenburg’s governmental services.

“It’s important to become energy efficient,” Whalen announced. “The town council members are modeling energy efficiency by changing the town’s streetlights to LED.”

Regarding long-range efforts, she said, “I would like people to know we are not only the Village of Spires, but the Village of Renewable Energy.”

In addition to reducing the town’s carbon dioxide equivalent by 50% by 2030, she hopes OREC can provide educational programs and workshops and that there will be a shift to solar energy systems and electric vehicles with charging stations installed. “We will also support a trail system between Oldenburg and Batesville that could increase foot and bicycle traffic to cut back on vehicle use for short trips between the towns.”

OTC President Dennis Moeller thanked the group for all the work they did. “It would be nice to do this in five years to see how we’re doing.” OREC members agreed.

For more information on OREC or to view the complete report, visit www.oldenburgindiana.org/orec.

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220114.