Push Mute On Your Single Passenger Commute

May 15, 2014

Written By: Jill Barlotta, UNHSI intern

I am just as guilty as the next person for driving my car, with no other passengers, to school. Granted, I do not do this everyday, but I do it on days when I just don’t feel like walking the 5 minutes to the bus stop. Guess what everyone…it is just as far to walk to the bus stop as it is to walk from the farthest reaches of A lot! Sometimes I do the single-passenger commute because I have a meeting far off campus that the buses do not service or it would take me forever to get there using public transportation. Therefore, my need to drive my car alone to campus has become a convenience issue. In this day and age we have so many things at the push of our finger. So I am going to challenge you to “inconvenience” yourself. Walk the 5-10 minutes it takes to get to the bus and enjoy this time away from technology. Take the extra 10 minutes it takes to ride the bus instead of drive yourself to read a book, meet a new person, or simply zone out. Make an exercise goal for yourself to be able to ride your bike from Newmarket or Dover. All these simple ways to get to school lessen your environmental impact on your local community. Do I hear your brain swirling? Maybe you are thinking, how can my commuting choices make a difference? Well let me show you how with some awesome carbon emission calculations.

Every year UNHSI collects information from different departments on campus about how much electricity UNH purchases, how many gallons of fuel the busses use, how much it composts, and lots more. UNH also collects information about commuting. As hopefully many of you know, the UNH transportation Services just completed their transportation survey. If you participated, you are helping UNH collect important information that helps the University track its emissions. This information is then compiled and given to UNHSI so they can put it in the Campus Carbon Calculator (a tool developed by the nonprofit Clean Air-Cool Planet and UNH, which is now managed by UNHSI) and determine how much commuting contributes to the University’s carbon emissions.

In 2011, which is the most recent transportation data available, of the 14, 211 students at UNH, 25% drive a personal vehicle with only them in the car and 10% carpool. The number of students that use their personal vehicle has declined from 47% in the past 15 years and the number that carpool has increased by 4%. This amount of students commuting equals 8.98 trips per week per person, for 30 weeks per year, at an average of 12 miles per trip. Anyone want to guess how many miles this is per year? The answer is 13, 782, 396 miles per year, which amounts for 570,223 gallons of fuel, or you could drive around the world 553 times. This breaks down to 4, 262 miles per day or 176 gallons. You could drive to Los Angeles and still have over 1000 miles to spare! ROAD TRIP!!!!!

Road trip

Student commuting by car emits 1063 kg of CH4 (methane), 355 kg of N2O (Nitrous Oxide), and 5,000,989 kg of CO2. These numbers probably mean nothing to you so lets put them in context. One particle of methane remains in the atmosphere for 12 years and is 20 times better at trapping radiation than CO2. Therefore, its ability to contribute to the heating of the atmosphere is 20 times greater than CO2. N2O particles remain in the atmosphere for 114 years. It heats the atmosphere at a rate of 310 times more than CO2. CO2 has many sinks in the environment such as plants and the ocean. Therefore, it is hard to gauge its atmospheric lifespan. However, there is currently too much CO2 in the atmosphere. The current CO2 level is approximately 400 ppm. It has been identified that a level of 350 ppm is acceptable for systems to remain in balance. Currently, we are adding 2 ppm of CO2 every year. We need to work to reduce this and this is where you can help.

The burning of fossil fuels, i.e. the gas you use in your car emits CH4, N2O, and CO2 into the atmosphere. To make your difference you can make sure that your car has a catalytic converter to reduce the N2O emitted, carpool with friends, take the UNH buses, ride your bike or walk to school. Over the year these daily changes will begin to add up. If you drive 10 miles to school one way, like me, you total 20 miles per day, 100 miles per week and roughly 5 gallons of fuel per week. Over the 30-week academic year this equals 3,000 miles and 150 gallons of fuel. This breaks down to equal 0.2 kg of CH4, 0.1 kg of N2O, and 1,100 kg of CO2. It also amounts to $553 or one month of rent, or 11 pedicures, or 61 6-packs of Smuttynose IPA! You may think that changing your commuting habits won’t make a difference, but remember each bit helps. If each commuter on campus knew how they could reduce their commuting emissions, the 13, 782, 396 miles travelled each year by UNH students to campus and the 570,223 gallons of fuel used could be reduced. So do you accept my challenge to “inconvenience” yourself and seek alternative transportation modes?

Tomorrow, Friday, May 16th, is the annual Seacoast Bike/Walk to Work day No better time to begin; you can start your day off right, and help UNH maintain its “champion” status in this annual event!

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