This study examines the environmental impact of a small Swiss University of Applied Sciences in a regular year of operation (2019) against that generated in 2020, which includes the periods of the governmentally ordered lockdown. The direct emissions of owned facilities, indirect energy emissions of purchased electricity as well as other indirect emissions which are the outcomes of the university’s activities but controlled by third parties are considered for 2019 and 2020 through a consumption-based methodology. The data is modelled with specific background data from ecoinvent v3.7.1 applying life cycle assessment (LCA).
The results of 2019 show that student commuting, employee commuting and business travel, with 86% (2’204 t CO2-eq) contributed the most to the total global warming potential of 2’572 t CO2-eq. In 2020, a decrease of 60% to the total (total 1’075 t CO2-eq), was recorded. Home-office opportunities and desk-sharing could facilitate improved environmental performance in a post-pandemic era because they reduce mobility and floor space. Interestingly, the environmental impact due to energy consumption remained almost on the same level, irrespective of the absence of students and employees on-site for more than half of the year in 2020. This study has brought transparency and a much-needed baseline against which future mitigation efforts could be compared.