the carbon footprint

Lizzy D’Alonzo
Mr. Deforest
Math 33, section 001
W&R1 final Draft

The Carbon Footprint:
The earth today is undergoing immense strain by the very people who inhabit it. In the mordern world, we are dealing with major environmental issues such as climate change and pollution. Man-made climate change, also known as global warming, is caused by the release of various greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. These man-made greenhouse gasses are emitted whenever we burn fossil fuels. Although these gasses can be beneficial to plants, they are harmful for humans due to the fact that they warms the planet which has many devastating effects. A carbon footprint is defined as the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual. Thus, when calculating your own carbon footprint, you can essentially see your individual impact on the earth. The average carbon footprint for a U.S. resident is twenty metric tons but because I am a college student, I have ways to lower my carbon footprint (mine is 15.18 metric tons). College students have a significantly lower carbon footprint than the average American resident due to their modes of transportation and style of living.

Every breath we take has an impact on our carbon footprint, one of the biggest generators of a carbon footprint is how you travel. Vehicles used for transportation create large amount of emissions that are released into the air, this not only creates a bigger carbon footprint for people who travel with vehicles, but the emissions also create a lack of healthy air for everyone to consume. However, people who travel on bicycles and walk neutralize one’s carbon footprint. In addition, the use of public transportation seriously diminishes the number of vehicles on the road. National averages demonstrate that public transportation produces significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger miles. Heavy rail transportation such as subways and metros, produce 76% less greenhouse gas emission than the single passenger vehicle. Bus transit produces 33% less greenhouse gasses; it makes sense that more people in one mode of transportation is better for the earth.(FTA) The equation below represents auto vs pulblic transportation estimated CO2 emissons per passenger mile for average occupancy. By adding up the average use of different types of individual auto emisson and adding up average use of different types of public transportation emissons and adding them together you see the difference in combined emissons. You can click here and scroll to the third page to view this. This is where my carbon footprint is more reduced than the average American. Considering that I am a college student, I do not have a car of my own and my only means of transportation are walking and public transportation. College students in general project a huge interest in public transportation.

(Auto) 0.99+0.85+0.59+0.24=2.64pounds of CO2

(Public Transportation) 0.64+0.18+0.23+0.11+0.36+0.14+0.33+0.10+0.22+0.12=2.43pounds of CO2

Another characteristic of college students that diminishes one’s carbon footprint is the popular use of walking and riding bicycles as a mode of transportation. According to a transit survey given in US Davis, 47% of students travel around campus on their bike.(Kitaura) Outside of a college town, millions of American citizens drive independently to and from work. College kids have everything around them in a close vicinity which makes it much easier to travel healthy, normal adults do not have the same privilege. All over the country we have students who use walking and public transportation as their main use of getting around, this drastically influences their carbon footprint for the better. Without a doubt, college kids produce a cleaner more energy efficient way of traveling.

Another way Penn State helps students lower their carbon footprint is through how students choose to live. For example, here at Penn State University Park, there are reusable containers that all students can use when getting meals. Reusable containers work like current carryout containers, you can easily pick them up from any cashier at any dining hall and use them for your food. Also, when printing at the campus there is an option to cut paper waste. At each campus printer, you have the ability to choose double side printing for multiple pages and you can change your default margin settings to save 5% more paper. Likewise in the dorms where students live, all students have easy access to put their trash in compost bins. Every dorm has an organized trash desposal to increase the correct recycling. According to the PSU Collegian last year Penn State University composted 1,300 tons. Composting saves Penn State $75,000 each year for not having to transport waste to a landfill, and Penn State also uses compost to make mulch which saves an additional $100,000 by not having to purchase mulch for the campus. When it comes to recycling, Penn State has a response diversion index of 89/64 which means that 89% of the waste can be recycled and 64% is actually recycled. (Johnson)

Penn State also has a recycling program created by the STATERS (Students Taking Action To Encourage Recycling). These students hand out blue bags at tailgates for recycling collection. This spefic program lowers the university’s landfill costs, and proceeds from the sale of football game recycling bags are donated to the Local United Way (a recycling industry). Also, all around campus you may see one of the 116 “Green Teams” which are groups of faculty, staff, and volunteers who take action in creating a more innovative and sustainable campus. As you can see from these examples, college campuses have a massive amount of people working to better the ecosystem and create an easier way for all students to better it. Even though I am not a part of any specific recycling group here on campus, I still find myself recycling because it is just so easy. Average Americans do not have the same opportunities, therefore they are more susceptible to choose the “easier” choice by just throwing everything in the trash. On a college campus, the “easier” choice is bettering the ecosystem.

Also, in my college dorm, when there are no people present in the hallways or bathrooms the lights automatically turn off. There are signs all around the dorms pushing people to remember to turn the water off when brushing their teeth and turn off their own lights when leaving their dorms. These little gestures create a huge impact on the people who live in dorms and have people changing their little habits to help the earth. College also takes action and educates people on sustainability, for example our own math class informs and teaches its students about how the earth works and how we can better it, not to mention that you can major in environmental studies. These examples alone prove again that there are millions of opportunities set up for college kids to better their own impact on the earth.

When in college, whether you are involved in helping the environment or not, you encounter ways to decrease your carbon footprint even if you do not realize it. I cannot say the same for the average American. Citizens living in certain settings such as cities or suburbs are not introduced or handed ways to better their footprint, I believe this is the biggest difference in why college students have a smaller carbon footprint. Here on campus it is so easy to make the healthier decision without even understanding that you are bettering the ecosystem. There is certainly more effort involved when it comes to people outside of college campuses, and frankly, people are too lazy or uneducated to make that effort. But maybe this is a good thing. It is important to take into account that every college student will at one point in their life finish college. This means that they will be put into the real world and these traits and normal acts of sustainability that they did every day in college will be tested. Wouldn’t we want our future generation to be specifically taught how to better our world? Once in the real world, it will no longer be as easy to be as environmental friendly as it once was in college but hopefully the students will still carry out the very acts they were conditioned to do when in school. Throughout the examples and statistics shown when it comes to the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted, college students undoubtedly have a smaller one than the average citizen. Being a college student I firmly believe that I have more opportunities laid out for me to better my own carbon footprint. In conclusion, due to the fact that I am a college student, my carbon footprint is smaller than the average person’s.


ISCFC: Calculate Your Footprint, page=fpcalc.

“Green Teams Program.”,

“Recycling and Composting.”,

Federal Transit Administration. “Public Transportation’s Role in Responding to Climate Change.”

American Public Transportation Association. “A Profile of Public Transportation Passenger Demographics and Travel Characteristics Reported in On-Board Surveys.”

“Calculate Your Carbon Footprint.” Conservation International,

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