Walking the Talk: Sustainable Transport Over Breaks

Any Colorado College student who has stayed at school during a Block Break or a holiday break can attest to the silence and loneliness on campus. The vast majority of students leave campus when class is not in session, and for good reason. The Block Plan allows CC students to experience different adventures throughout the year in a way that could never happen under the regular semester system. An unfortunate consequence of this freedom is a pattern of environmentally unsustainable transit as we leave and return to school. Students — and the college as a whole — often overlook this fact in the haze of escaping the stress of the previous block. 

Yet amid this haze, there is hope for improving the sustainability of our transportation without making huge sacrifices. Sustainability Director Ian Johnson has been working with other members of the Office of Sustainability to ease this process for students. This Fall Break, students’ modes of transit experienced a change with a price reduction for shuttles to the Colorado Springs and Denver airports. In the past, students purchased shuttle tickets at the Worner Desk for $45. This year, they paid only $15. This is one of the most affordable and sustainable ways to reach the airport because the carbon dioxide emissions per person are far fewer than those created during a ride in a single-passenger vehicle.  

Ideally, students would reduce their use of fossil-fuel-dependent transportation as much as possible. When necessary, it is preferable to use public transit or carpool. However, in some situations, these methods are impossible or just not worth it. Recognizing this, the Office of Sustainability is trying to help CC students understand the environmental impact of their travel and consider something that many individual consumers don’t: carbon offsets.  

As of this week, the Office of Sustainability website provides a link to a “Travel Offset Calculator.” Although this calculator is a placeholder for an updated version that will debut next semester, the tool is still useful for students trying to be more aware of the environmental impact of their travel. The calculator link leads to a page where you can enter the number of miles you traveled, by plane or by car, and you will be given a dollar amount that roughly represents how much it will cost you to offset the carbon dioxide emitted during your trip. Following this number is a link to donate to CC’s carbon offsets; the page will immediately plug in your dollar amount.

How much do these offsets cost? Surprisingly, very little. For example, for a 4,000-mile trip by plane, a distance roughly equivalent to flying from Denver to Boston and back, the cost of offsetting emissions is only $9.61. That’s less than a movie ticket with popcorn or a Rastall dinner. The affordability of a tool like this is an opportunity for CC students to decrease their carbon footprint of which they may not have been aware. 

For those who love travelling, it is tempting to allow offsets to justify unsustainable habits, but that is not the intention of the tool. Rather, offsets should act as a way for students to stay aware of their carbon footprint and build sustainable habits and values for the future. Johnson thinks that individual habits like this reflect on the school; in his eyes, it is the responsibility of the students to keep themselves conscious of the issue. “I think it’s important because this is something that we’ve committed to as an institution,” he said. “It’s something that [CC students] are obviously passionate about, but … I think I’d like to see more action at the individual level … Yes, it’s important for our institution to do it, but it’s also important for us to do it.” Keep the planet in mind as you make plans for your Winter Break. 

Photo by Daniel Sarché

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