How much carbon dioxide do we emit on our daily school run?

Every morning during the school year I drive Oliver from our house to Colonel Gray Senior High School, a distance of 1.74 km one-way.

Oliver sent me a link to Mission Emission this morning, a calculator for vehicle emissions, and I used it to determine the emissions from this daily school run, which it calculates are 537g of CO2.

Doubling that–because I drive back home immediately afterward on the same route–gives me a figure of 1074g of CO2 per day, or, over 180 school days, 193 kilograms of CO2 per year.

If Oliver and I were to bicycle to school instead of driving, our daily impact would go from 1074g of CO2 to 20g of CO2, which is a dramatic decrease to 3.6 kilograms per year.

Walking to school would achieve a similar although slightly less impressive result, lowering our impact to 7.9 kilograms per year.

Of course, as with all discussions of emissions and climate change, the invisibility of CO2 and the attendant difficulty in imagining what these numbers mean in real terms in our daily life is part of the challenge of behaviour modification: in this regard I found the recent IPCC report incredibly motivating, as it calls for net-zero by 2050, and net-zero emissions is something I can wrap my head around.

Moving from 193 kg of CO to 3.6 of kg is getting pretty close to net-zero: it’s a 98% reduction in emissions for our school run.