The University of Puget Sound has made great efforts in the past year to acknowledge and address the problems associated with climate change. President Thomas has signed both the Talloires Declaration and the Presidents Climate Commitment in which he commits the university to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by mid-century. The University of Puget Sound is committed to achieving climate neutrality.

One major part of achieving this goal is to reduce CO2 emissions that come from methods of transportation. The university has taken some steps to do so including installing bike racks around campus and starting a new bike shop. In the next year the university plans to change all facilities vehicles to electric. This includes not having a gasoline tank in the plans for the new facilities building. One key aspect of reducing CO2 emissions is to find out how many tons of CO2 are emitted from transportation associated with the university currently.

Approximately 8,726 metric tons of CO2 are produced by transportation in the University of Puget Sound community every year. The majority of this is created by student car use and faculty and students air travel. Every year 1061 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted solely from employees commuting to and from work.  In addition, students emit between 650 and 3,684 tons of carbon dioxide from their personal vehicle use.

How We Calculated Our Transportation Footprint

Student Car Use

To calculate personal student car use, we first calculated the mileage between the University of Puget Sound and popular student destinations. These distances included Seattle, Portland, downtown Tacoma, the grocery store and the mall/movie theatre. By estimating a “high” “medium” and “low” number of trips to these destinations, based on our peer’s responses, we were able to suggest that a “high” mileage per semester was 3684 miles per semester. We then scaled the number down to 2500 miles for the “medium” category and 1500 miles for the “low” category. Another important part of our calculations was finding a national average miles-per-gallon for personal vehicles. Through our research we discovered this average to be 27 mpg. In addition, our research has shown that there is a multitude of ways to calculate carbon dioxide emissions. In order to be consistent and to have a clear point of reference we calculated the University of Puget Sound’s carbon footprint for transportation in the manner that Lewis and Clark calculated theirs. The main component of this calculation was using their pounds of CO2 per gallon coefficient, which is 19.56. These calculations were then turned into metric tons of CO2

Air Travel

Air travel alone accounts for 6496 tons of CO2. To figure out the amount of CO2 produced by student air travel, we looked at the number of out of state students. Taking into account students who drive from Oregon and students who fly from eastern Washington we calculated that approximately 1,830 students fly home four times a year. We also used number of students who studied abroad spring 2007 taking into account that less students study abroad in the fall, we figured out that flying to the study abroad location alone, creates 1,973 tons of CO2. The University of Puget Sound also pays for professors to go to one conference a year, which alone creates about 1 percent of Puget Sound’s total CO2 from transportation per year. Air travel creates approximately 75 percent of all transportation CO2 at Puget sound.

Employee Commuting

Using the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) survey report created by the Washington State Department of Transportation, we were able to calculate the amount of CO2 created by employees commuting to Puget Sound. We used the same formula used for student driving taking into account if professors drive alone, carpool, bus, or walk.  We found that 1,061 tons of CO2 are created by employees commuting.  

The following graph shows Puget Sound’s approximate CO2 transportation footprint. The first graph shows the percentage breakdown based on a low estimate of student personal driving.

The second graph is based on a mid- range estimate of the amount of personal driving Puget Sound students do.

The final graph shows a higher estimate of student car travel. This includes more trips to Seattle, Portland, downtown Tacoma, and the store.

The next two graphs show Puget Sound’s transportation footprint compared to other similar universities. The first is the total CO2 created by transportation at the university and the second is per student.

Comparing all of these schools based on the amount of CO2 created by transportation is difficult because different schools use different methods of figuring out their transportation footprint. For example, while we estimated student’s general car use, Carleton did not include student’s general car use. Carleton did however include loaner cars and vans when we did not.