Study reveals a worrying one-day snapshot of carbon emissions from travel to UWE, based on national averages and on-site data assumptions.

Credit: Mark Nichols
UWE’s carbon footprint has been estimated by students, suggesting more sustainability work is needed // Credit: Mark Nichols

Students from the Faculty of Environment and Technology have drawn contextual conclusions over the daily carbon footprint of transport to UWE in relation to the whole of the Bristol and South Gloucestershire region, under guidance from research fellow Mr Ian Shergold. Cars were tallied in the largest staff and student car parks at Frenchay on a Monday in early February and added to the average number of buses to visit the campus on that day. This totaled to 9.6 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to approximately 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

If multiplied across the academic year, transport to UWE Frenchay would account for 1523.79 tonnes of CO2 per year. It is important to stress some of the assumptions made during data collection however, which include the lack of account for fuel type, as all cars were assumed to be petrol. The average daily return journey distances for staff and students were also estimated at approximately 18 miles, and the average number of contact days were estimated based on term dates. With this in mind, the true figure could be significantly different in either direction, as true accuracy is hard to reach when concerned with transport emissions. That said, UWE’s sustainability team have stated that 34% of UWE’s total carbon emissions are produced by staff and student commuter travel, and 49% if start/end term journeys are included in the mix.

The University appears to recognize the carbon footprint of its travel through large investment in to cycling facilities and reducing reliance on single occupancy vehicles with 2+ car parks and lanes. But should more be done? According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (2010), annual transport emissions in Bristol reached 503,880 tonnes, of which UWE alone would account for 0.3% from today’s figures. For the whole of the Bristol and South Gloucestershire region, UWE would account for 0.11% of total CO2.

Visualising carbon emissions is a hard thing to do, so if the contextual numbers fly over your head, then take this image away with you: on average, transport to UWE accounts for approximately 1,524 Olympic swimming pools of CO2 every year.

By Mark Nichols