Each year, the Sustainability Office conducts a survey to assess the total carbon emissions coming from employees who commute to work.
The survey, distributed via email, asks Colgate employees to share information about their commuting habits such as how often they drive themselves to campus, the distance they drive each time, and the fuel efficiency of their vehicle. This data helps us determine commuting emissions and our overall annual Greenhouse Gas footprint. We have been tracking this data since 2009 as we strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2019.
319 people representing an impressive 31% of Colgate employees completed this year’s survey. The results provided us with some interesting insights. The average Colgate commuter traveled 3,916 miles to and from work last year, using 156 gallons of gasoline and emitting 2,700 lbs of carbon dioxide in the process. When compared to the average American commuter, the average Colgate commuter traveled a shorter distance to work last year, but used more gallons of gasoline. This suggests that the average Colgate commuter uses a vehicle that is less fuel-efficient than that used by the average American commuter.
In total, Colgate commuters traveled 3,991,229 miles last year and used 150,027 gallons of gasoline. That’s enough travel to go to the moon and back more than eight times! These numbers mark an average increase of 19 gallons per commuter last year from the previous year and the highest numbers since 2013. On the positive side, about 20% of respondents to this year’s survey indicated that they walked or rode a bike to campus at least once per week, with an average of 3.5 days per week – a number that was constant across all seasons. This marks a 5% increase in the number of Colgate employees walking or riding a bike from last year’s average of 15%. Last year’s numbers were also less consistent, with more respondents walking or biking to campus in the summer and fall semester than in the spring semester.
To help Colgate achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2019, commuters can explore options to decrease the amount of gasoline they use in a year to drive to campus. Driving shorter distances to campus not only saves time and money, but also reduces your carbon footprint. Another option is to invest in a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Several employees have already invested in hybrid or ll-electric vehicles. Reducing the number of days you drive to work can also reduce your carbon footprint. This last option could be accomplished by walking to work when weather and distance permits, working from home with your supervisor’s permission, or by carpooling with another Colgate employee who lives nearby. A number of employees commented on the survey that increased bike lanes would make commuting by bicycle more practical and safe, and suggested a variety of improvements that would make it easier for more people to opt out of driving to campus alone. These suggestions will be carefully considered as we rethink parking and circulation patterns on campus.
In the meantime, thank you as always for all you do to support sustainability on campus.