As in any commodity, there are social, environmental and economic implications of purchasing utilities. Some considerations include: human rights, carbon intensity, utility efficiency, community development, pollution, and landscape impacts. Depending on the region; economics, policy, incentives, infrastructure, and technology create scenarios where some options are not available and/or more viable in one region versus the other.
In 2011, Dalhousie Halifax campuses changed its main heating for the District Energy System from Bunker C oil to natural gas creating cleaner air and carbon emission profile. Bunker oil is transported by ship from international countries and trucked to final end destinations. Natural gas is currently from offshore Nova Scotia. With wells being finished, gas will come via pipeline from projects in North America. There are plans to reduce emissions and local air shed particulates further with a Halifax co-generation project. The University is also active in pursuing options for renewable natural gas when available in the market place.
For the Agricultural Campus the main heating source for the co-generation system is biomass. A biomass values statement was created for purchasing guidance. Supply focuses on waste products such as bark and sawmill residue and yard waste from the local area. A small amount of the tonnage is categorized as research fuels. This enables the University to try new fuels that support sustainability objectives. Two research fuels being trialed in the next two years include willow and low value selectively harvested stem wood from local forestry cooperative's forest health programs.
Dalhousie is installing onsite solar and geothermal systems. More off-site renewable electricity energy projects will also be examined for future.
Water is provided by local public utilities through surface water systems, Reducing water consumption helps to conserve a local resource and reduce energy required for pumping. Water fill stations are being added in campus buildings to encourage the use of local water.