By Adam Berk ’15
If you were to ask the average Colgate student which aspects of campus contributed the most to our carbon footprint, you would probably receive a variety of answers: heating, electricity, water usage, and possibly even paper usage. Some, however, might tell you that transportation to and from Colgate is one of the largest greenhouse gas-emitting sources of the university—and they would be right. In fact, while the burning of fossil fuels for water and space heating has the largest impact, emissions from air travel closely trails behind, and with the inclusion those from commuting and ground travel, transportation as a whole is the largest producer of greenhouse gases at Colgate.
As one would expect, most of us need to travel—whether it be outside or inside of the village of Hamilton—so the question becomes: what can we do to abate our transportation emissions?
Biking is always a fun and healthy option for getting from place to place fuel-free, and if you don’t have your own bicycle, you can rent one for only $15 a month from our Green Bikes program! Or, if you’re fortunate enough to own an electric vehicle, you can bring it to campus and take advantage of our new EV charging station. For further trips, the Colgate Student Travel Agency provides discounts for daily bus trips to Utica and New York City, as well as a shuttle service to the Syracuse Airport during busy travel periods. You can, of course, also employ the several other options offered—taxis, zipcar rentals, and on-demand shuttles to name a few—by various offices and departments. And if none of these options appeal to you, you can always take advantage of the real-time ridesharing service provided by the New York State Department of Transportation.
Air travel, needless to say, is sometimes an unfortunate necessity, but recent steps taken by the Federal Aviation Administration shows hints of a promising and greener future. Their Destination 2025 plan seeks to “transform the Nation’s aviation system by 2025,” partly by providing renewable and more effective fuels for the majority of commercial aircrafts (as opposed to the usual leaded gasoline) by 2018. Furthermore, the Aviation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan promises to arrive at “carbon-neutral growth for U.S. commercial aviation by 2020” through improvements in technology, air traffic management, policies, practices, and, again, alternative fuels. This is projected to result in a reduction of 90-115 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of 209-267 barrels of oil. Under these directives, the administration’s CLEEN (Continuous Lower Emissions, Energy, and Noise) program, launched in 2010, seeks to “accelerate development and commercial deployment of environmentally promising aircraft technologies and sustainable alternative fuels” and implement these technologies beginning in 2015. With this program, the FAA is hoping to reduce fuel burn—and consequently energy consumption and carbon emissions—by at least 33%.
With our increasingly globalized world, it is unlikely that we are going to see momentous changes in our travel habits anytime soon, but we can make minor changes to our individual behavior that together make a major impact. And certainly, ambitious technological innovations that may seem like a dream are closer than we might think.