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For the 1 in 8 people globally who set foot in a school each day, commuting to and from school is a necessary part of the daily routine. What mode of transportation do they use, and how environmentally friendly is it? Do they have a more sustainable option available to them, and if so, how can they be encouraged to make the greener choice?
A sustainable transportation activity can help you find the answers to those questions at your school. Whether it’s a campaign to organize carpools, encouraging individuals to take the bus, or a weekly walk or ride to school promotion, the objective should be to get your school community to think about how transportation choices impact their carbon footprint.
Measure your impact
Conduct a survey with participants and get students involved in the survey process if you can. Ask participants about the length of their commute to school, and how they usually get to school versus how they came to school on the day of the project. Compare the difference in miles traveled, gas saved, etc.
- Determine an activity that makes sense for your school community and location. In some areas, a carpool organizing activity might be safer or more realistic than asking individuals to walk or ride bikes to school.
- If your school uses the Arc platform to collect and manage sustainability data (including transportation data), consider using this day as an opportunity to conduct a transportation survey. Have student volunteers collect responses from people as they enter the building. Station them in areas where people may be arriving – the parking lot, bus line, or bike/walk access points. You can conduct a couple surveys during the school year and see how continued awareness about sustainable transportation impacts your performance score.
- Make sure you consider pedestrian safety and/or bike safety as you plan, and communicate safety considerations to participants.
- Use the day as an opportunity to create more awareness and celebrate the impact that more sustainable transportation choices can have.
- Incentives: Reward participants with a refreshment table when they arrive at school in the morning. Younger students may enjoy a stamp as a small reward.
- Education: Discuss the commute with participants and ask them if they made any observations about their route (find downloadable walkability and bikeability checklists you can email participants in advance here). You may also consider working with the school to organize an assembly on the day to energize students and continue the learning.
- Consider making a commitment: If you’d like to keep the momentum for sustainable commutes going, organize a pledge that participants can sign to opt for a greener mode of transportation X times a week or month.
- Connect student learning with sustainability action. Learning Lab offers high-quality classroom content – over 500 lessons – for teachers from kindergarten to high school. In the lesson “Personal Transportation Eco-Audit,” students conduct an eco-audit to calculate how much carbon dioxide their personal transportation habits contribute to the atmosphere over one week. You can find more modules to educate students about protecting air quality by searching Learning Lab's catalog by theme, primary subject, grade or keyword
- Safe Routes to School is a national organization that works to promote the importance of walking and biking to school. They have a variety of research and tips available online, and they also organize national Walk to School and Bike to School Days your school can participate in.
- View our web training on transportation for tips on planning and implementing a green transportation program at your school.