Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Time Line Issue

Hello, everyone!

Last night, I was looking through the carbon calculator just to get an idea of what kind of data I would be in charge of collecting. However, I soon realized a flaw in the time line we were observing. Simply put, it would be impossible for me to come up with data for the remainder of the 2010 school year. I'm sure a few of you have hit this same brick wall.

I then turned to my handy-dandy Carbon Emissions 2008 Report for answers. I realized in their report, they monitored the 2006-2007 school year, which made sense to me. So I pose these questions to you:

Would it be beneficial to continue this trend and monitor the 2008-2009 school year? Wouldn't this make our data more sound when comparing it in the years to come? Does it make sense to use data which already exists in comparison to data which will involve a greater measure of guess-work?

What is your opinion?


  1. Since for offsets data isn't going to be our number one concern, it doesn't really affect us that much the choice that's made for our specific needs. However, I do think that whatever data we decide to use should be an academic year. This seems to make the most sense because we are an academic institution and generally major changes regarding things that might affect our data collection are made during the summer when there are less people here, so we'd have more consistent data if we used an academic year.

  2. Transportation

    I certainly understand the concern you have regarding which academic school year (08-09, 09-10) to use, and you make a valid point: It makes sense to use already calculated data in order to make sure that our data is sound.

    Let's walk through this: if we stayed with the transportation-team's suggested academic year (June 2009-May 2010,) we would be missing monthly data for 3 months (March, April, May), correct? The survey will be going out for two weeks at the end of March. The transportation team (according to our timeline) will be then be computing and entering our data into the CACPCC in April (after spring break.) By that time, the March information for heating, electricity, waste, etc. should be available, leaving us with only April and May to account for.

    The question I'd like to ask is "Is the data from previous years stable enough to estimate 2-months worth?" That is, is there a solid trend in previous years (for the months of April and May) that we can follow to estimate data with relative reliability?

    The other side of this question is if we were to use the 2008-2009 school year instead of 2009-2010, would the self-report transportation information in the survey be reliable? Will people have forgotten about their transportation uses? Will survey participants be less likely to complete the survey because of it's date? Is the data as relevant if it is not as current? Does it matter? Which estimation would could potentially throw our numbers/calculations off further?

    It comes to this: Is it better to estimate two months of data using previous years to map a trend, or is it better to rely on memory for the transportation uses of 2008-2009?

  3. (PS - I tried to preview and hit "post" without reviewing, and can't get back in to edit. I hope this all makes sense - sorry!)

  4. Exactly what dates will you use for your Academic Year?
    I am pretty sensitive to the timeline issue and wanted to let you know that most of what goes on behind the scenes here in Facilities Management works within Fiscal Years; so that is July 1st of 2009 through June 31st of 2010 for the 2010 Fiscal Year. While the data I can provide you can be manipulated to provide an Academic or Calendar year, it will involve more work. All things purchased, I believe, are purchased on a Fiscal Year too so data from the budget office will also need some additional work.
    The most important thing is that you are consistent. It might be worth asking those you are getting your various types of information from, about the year format they are using and can it be sorted to accommodate the timeline you will need.

  5. The problem you run into with trying to use the 2008-2009 year is that you are not communicating with the people who graduated, and that the results from the survey of this year's freshmen are not valid for that time period. This throws off the validity of the survey.

    Just another thing to consider.

  6. Robyn, would it be possible for you to explain a little more about what you did in 2008? I reread through the transportation portion of the survey, but am still having a hard time understanding which years the data came from. Thanks!

    In regards to electricity and cooling, I just wanted to mention that in the 2008 report, they averaged the data from the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years. If we were to continue in this manner we would average the data from the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. Personally, I think it makes the most sense to use fiscal years for everything except the transportation survey, but I am not sure what sort of consequences that will have on the data.

  7. My vote is to use the fiscal year from July 1, 2009-June 30, 2010 for everything except for maybe the transportation. My problem with taking transportation out is that I'm pretty sure we still have significant staff and faculty coming in especially in administration. Is that worth looking at? Otherwise, I don't want to burden our survey-takers any more than we already have. In regards to the other categories, I think going with what we know about this current year and then assuming the others will be about the same as the previous years. Actually, I guess we would be using the April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010 fiscal year then.

  8. I suppose it would be most beneficial to the survey if we were looking at 2009-2010. However, I don't agree with estimating numbers either. I feel that categories like electricity are too dependent on the seasons to estimate. We also don't have much previous data from which to model our estimates.

    But like Laura, I am also curious as to how the 08 team managed this issue. Did the transportation section look at a different time period than the rest of the groups?

  9. I agree with Jason on this one...I think we should use the '09-'10 fiscal year. I think this would be best for the transportation survey, which is a major part of the footprint. If we think about it, the survey could only be sent out to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. However, how many of us are "classified" as what we actually are. For example, all the freshmen in this class have at least sophomore credit status (it was a requirement to register for the class). Therefore, we may think we're sending the survey to students who were here last year but, in all reality, a lot of freshmen will end up getting it and the seniors of that year (main car using demographic) will not be surveyed. I think this risks skewing the results too much.

    I think that, however, we should take into consideration the data from previous years and make sure that they follow a general trend so that we're not making up completely unreasonable numbers for everything. I think that if we're able to somewhat accurately estimate data for two months, that will lead us to decently accurate figures, without completely throwing off the transportation survey's results.

  10. From my experience working on this sort of thing, I have to agree with Lynn. While it is important to communicate our carbon footprint in the context of an academic institution, those working behind the scenes do not necessarily operate in this way. If you feel putting the data into the context of academic years is crucial, you could always extract the data for those months out of what you have using a spreadsheet. Of course this does mean more work. As for the year, that is up to you. I would suggest using 2008-2009. Whatever year you choose, you will be forced to rely on memory and estimation. I am not convinced that asking people to think back one year will skew the data. I also think it is absolutely necessary to have the survey and the other data match. I think an inconsistency of this type in the report would appear as a major flaw and cause problems in the future. Best of luck.

  11. I am glad Isaac discussed using different time periods for different data. I was unsure of what kind of effect it would have, but it makes sense that it would cause problems. I also agree with many of the previous posts that it would be easier to use a fiscal year instead of a school year, though would this have an impact on our survey - would we need to change any of the questions to reflect it being a fiscal year instead of a school year? Also, Isaac suggestec using 2008-2009, but that comes back to the question of how we would get accurate survey results because the seniors are gone and new freshmen are here. Over all, I am really unsure what we should do about the years.

  12. Electricity and Cooling

    Laura and I got together today and we were talking about the timeline. For us, and probably for some of the other groups, it's impossible for us to get data from the future. We suggest that all the groups excluding transportation try to use the 2008-2009 fiscal year. This way most of our data is from the same period. As for transportation, I feel that the information will probably be pretty similar from the year before that the information will still be valid.
    We also feel that we should try and make a decision as a group sometime soon so that we can start gathering the appropriate data. (Laura and I have already started to contact people, and it would be nice to let them know what we need)

  13. Transportation

    I agree with Elizabeth - we should quickly come to a decision; until we do, our survey and data-collecting are at a stand-still.

    I also agree with Isaac in that we absolutely cannot use data from two separate years. The transportation and University-usage data must be from the same year or our results will be more skewed than they would be from estimating one or the other.

    We have three year choices:
    July 1, 2008 - June 31, 2009
    June 1, 2009 - May 31, 2010
    July 1, 2009 - June 31, 2010
    Below, I've commented on what I see as pro's and con's for each. Please let me know what you think, and let's make a decision.

    July 1, 2008 - June 31, 2009
    (+) True data for University-related electricity, waste, etc.
    (-) New student body - the transportation survey would have to extend only to the 2009-2010 sophomores, juniors, and seniors because the seniors from last year are no longer on campus, and the freshman of this year weren't at UWEC yet. This significantly narrows our participant pool.
    (-) Reliability statistically decreases the further back you go when surveys include self-report. In addition, the relevance for the student body would decrease. "Who cares about last year?" Though the information from last year IS important to us, it's the rest of the campus who has to feel like their responses will help make a difference. The more displaced they are from the dates/times in question, the less they'll be willing to "help."

    June 1, 2009 - May 31, 2010
    (+) This keeps the same student body and keeps the survey relevant to participants. In addition (part negative, part positive,) the information will be entered into the CACPCC in early May (after spring break.) We would only need to estimate of the campus-collected information on electricity, waste, etc. for the month of May. My guess is that over the past few years, the waste, heating, etc. has been pretty stable for the month of May. Could we average and follow the trend?
    (-) Averaging May
    (-) This does not run with the school's fiscal year. How is the year separated? If it's just 1 month we're looking at, it's not a huge deal to add/edit that into a spreadsheet. If it's calculated annually, that would require taking each annual datum and dividing by 12. Still not hard to do, but it does increase error.

    July 1, 2009 - June 31, 2010
    (+) Runs with the school year
    (+) Same student body
    (-) We would have to estimate two months worth of data (using past trends) which increases error.
    (-) Where would summer fit in for transportation? We could certainly separate out the summer months and ask for July/August, 2009 and then June, 2010, but that may be tedious for our participants. We could also average the summer months and add it into the spreadsheet that way, but again, it introduces further error.

    Other things to consider:
    Have any significant changes been made across our campus that would influence our numbers between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010?
    For example, has study abroad increased? Air travel is a large contributor to carbon or this campus. Big enough to matter?
    Has there been a greater push for recycling this year as compared to 2008-2009? Does that significantly influence our waste?
    Has the campus added electric/diesel fleets that would change the output between 2008-2010? When?
    How much do these things matter?

    I think we should take a vote. Pick one and explain why (as briefly as possible):
    Choice 1: July 1, 2008 - June 31, 2009
    Choice 2: June 1, 2009 - May 31, 2010
    Choice 3: July 1, 2009 - June 31, 2010


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