Tracking carbon emission impact of school transportation
Esther Briz, Grace Kelly, Udani Satarasinghe
Prof. Riitta Katila
MakeKnowledge is a California 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded to be an innovation catalyst in and for education, and to create ecosystems of opportunity in education.
Our project was designed to gather data about the carbon emissions associated with commuting to and from four East Bay Area private K-12 schools, and to recommend ways to decrease those emissions. We designed survey collection instruments to gather data about student and faculty commutes. A few key metrics we identified were the utilization of different modes of transportation, the type of vehicle that drivers owned (electric, hybrid, or gas), and the make, model, and year of the car, so that we could calculate carbon emissions.
Next, using the gathered data, we produced charts and prototyped graphical reports that will inform school communities about next steps and longer-term actions that may be taken. Our ultimate goal in working with MakeKnowledge was to help design school data reporting and offer near- and long-range recommendations about ways to reduce carbon emitting transportation options in favor of low and no carbon transportation.
The eight weeks we spent on this project served as a pilot with the goal of expanding the program to more East Bay Area private schools in the future. This pilot shed light on a host of other questions, including possible concerns about data sharing between schools, ideas for scaling the project beyond the Bay Area and California, and potential partners for future work.
Based on our analysis of K-12 school transportation, we recommend that the schools concentrate their efforts on creating specific action plans that will make it more convenient for the students and staff to take less carbon intensive modes of transportation. From our surveys and the resulting data, we created infographics that the schools can distribute to the students, staff, and their boards, to communicate the current state of their carbon emissions from school transportation and the steps they can take to reduce the emissions.
For example, a small percentage of parents switching how they commute to school can lead to notable improvements in the total carbon emissions of the school, and the mode of transportation we found particularly beneficial was carpooling.
One of the participating schools invited us to attend a Climate Positive Student Network meeting, and at the meeting, we perceived great interest from the members of the network towards making changes in order to improve environmental conditions. The schools we worked with can share our findings and expand survey participants to the other schools in the network.
Techniques and models used
We distributed two surveys to each of our four partner schools: one for parents to fill out on behalf of their children (students) and one for school faculty. Survey questions were designed to gain insight into the carbon emissions associated with the methods of transportation and the impact that switching from one mode of transit to another would have on overall emissions.
We cleaned and analyzed the collected data in Excel and used Canva to create customized infographics for each school to visualize their carbon impact and transportation trends. Additionally, we conducted a sensitivity analysis using one of the schools as a case study to further understand the impact of school transportation on carbon emissions.