Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Long Way Home

Last year I calculated the carbon footprint of Lasell College for the Green Campus Task Force. A gaping hole in my analysis was the lack of data on the commute of college employees. A complete carbon footprint analysis must include not only electricity and energy consumption but also include the the impact of people traveling to and from our campus. I'm currently working to arrive at some estimate of this number but I am finding it very challenging.

I've started with data from human resources on where employees live. The data is quite interesting and I thought I would share some numbers. The average employee lives over 13 miles from campus making the average commute 25.7 miles. This is consistent with the average American commute of 32 miles but probably not the average time of 52 minutes. The longest commute is 130 miles but I don't know how frequently that individual commutes. About 120 employees live under 10 miles but 84 live over 20 miles from campus. The high cost of housing in Newton and neighboring towns most likely increases commuting distances for employees.

My Environmental Science class is working on a way to regularly survey employees to annually assess our footprint from commuting. With this data we can start to evaluate carpool programs, T passes, and parking structures on campus. Many employees take public transportation or carpool. Others do not commute every day of the week. Asking employees to self report their commuting information would probably yield a low response rate. Students in my Environmental Science class want to hold paychecks until employees report the data. I know that will never fly but I love their thinking. Sustainability on campus should be a priority.

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