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City of Morris Local government operations GHG Inventory

Over the last several months, one of the big projects I have been working on is a GHG and Nitrogen inventory of Morris’s local government operations. This project was one that was written into the LCCMR grant that funds my position with the city. But why would we want to or need to know about the GHG footprint for the city? First and foremost, it provides us with valuable data on how efficiently the city is being run from an operational standpoint. Much of the GHG data is derived from how much energy is used in our buildings, how much fuel is being used by our public works and utilities departments, and how much fuel our employees use for commuting to and from work. Data was also derived from how much and the method we use to treat waste water from residential, commercial, and municipal accounts within the city.

To complete an inventory such as this though, I needed to use a tool to track and gather data in one spot. The industry standard when it comes to GHG foot printing is the ICLEI’s Clear Path tool. A requirement to use this tool was specifically included in the work plan for the grant. However, in meeting with leadership at ICLEI, it soon became clear that they were not the best option for a small town like Morris. They price the tool based on population size, and their lowest population tier was 0-100,000 people. Morris being a town of 5,000 in a county of 10,000 enquired about a discount and told other small towns had paid the amount they were asking for. While they claimed to have other small towns in their network, most of these towns were small town in the mountains of Colorado that host ski resorts and other major tourism hubs that are able to spend $1200 per year on a membership to such a service.

Instead, we used a tool designed for university and college campuses called SIMAP or Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform. One of the biggest reasons we chose to use a tool designed for colleges and universities is because, in many ways, we operate similar to a medium or large sized university. We thought if the twin cities campus with over 50,000 students used it, we could use it for a town of 5,000.

Some key results from the inventory follow. The city of Morris’s operations released 1,846 tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent gas in 2020. 1,817 tons in 2021, and 1,993 tons in 2022.

Looking specifically at energy use within Morris’s buildings 9,863 MMBtu were used in 2020. 10,075 MMBtu used in 2021, and 10,389 MMBtu in 2022. Although these numbers show that we used more energy in buildings in 2022 than in 2020, it is important to normalize the data around the main energy use with most of our buildings; Heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. To do this we use a normalization called degree days. One-degree day is equal to difference in degrees between the outside temperature and the desired indoor temperature. Thus if a winter day has an average temp of 28 degrees and the desired indoor temperature is 70 degrees that one day had 42 degree days.

Normalizing our energy use against the degree day data from Morris showed a 4% increase in energy use between 2020 and 2021, a 7.5% decrease between 2021 and 2022, and an overall 3.8% decrease between 2020 and 2021.

Another interesting category is the use of fuel by our public works and utility teams. Fuel is used for a variety of activities including tree and street maintenance, snow plowing, and landscaping maintenance. Diesel use in 2020 was 7,350 gallons, 6,608 gallons in 2021, and 12,588 gallons in 2022. This dramatic rise in diesel use can be attributed to two major weather events in 2022. The first of these was the May 12th 2022 wind storm. Extensive cleanup was needed during and after the storm and diesel also powered many of the generators that were used until power was restored. 2022 was also a big year for snow removal. Whereas in 2020 snowfall totaled 26.5 inches and 2021 snowfall totaled 29.4 inches, 2022 snowfall totaled 52.8 inches, an 80% increase from 2021 and a 99% increase from 2020. This lead to significantly more plowing and sanding of city streets and lead to the dramatic increase in fuel use.

If you're interested in the full text of the report, you can email Griffin at

This report will continue to inform future renewable energy investments and will guide future city policies.

My work is supported through an LCCMR grant through the ENRTF. Learn more at

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