Commuting's environmental impact at Mount Royal under study
Professor Israel Dunmade conducting year-long study into campus travel
He’s a recognized environmental researcher, active booster of green transportation and one of Mount Royal University’s strongest advocates for improved campus sustainability.
But even Israel Dunmade, PhD, concedes he typically drives to work by himself, when faced with the scourge of a 75-minute trip on public transit.
“It’s a small car,” Dunmade says of his ride, laughing.
As someone saddled with a long commute, he has an intrinsic understanding of why people drive to the University. As an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Dunmade wants to understand the impact of the transportation choices the Mount Royal University community makes.
He is now collecting more extensive data on the travel habit of students, faculty and staff. A campus-wide survey was released through email earlier this month as part of a larger study into climate change. The survey will be accessible until Oct. 31 to students, employees and faculty.
Survey participants are asked dozens of questions, including the time of their fastest/slowest commute, reason behind their travel choices and factors that influence their decisions.
The results may shed light on any demographic trends, and will measure the campus’ use of carpooling stalls, the ride-sharing program and public transit.
It’s all part of a year-long study, which has been approved by the Mount Royal Human Research Ethics Board.
Researchers are also conducting traffic counts, recording vehicle models, and they will eventually be taking samples of the greenhouse gases emissions from cars in the parking lots.
“This is a starting point,” Dunmade said. “We must first understand the environmental impact of our commuting choices before we start to work on the solutions.”
Similar studies have been done at the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto, among others. A number of municipalities in southern Alberta have also benefited from sustainability studies conducted by Dunmade.
The results of his most recent work will be compiled into a report for Mount Royal’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability, which sponsored the project.
While much ado is made over the environmental impacts of the heavy industrial emitters in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, Michael Quinn, PhD, contends it’s critical to consider our personal choices closer to home.
Transportation accounts for roughly 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in North America, according to Quinn, director and Talisman Energy Chair of Environmental Sustainability, MRU’sInstitute for Environmental Sustainability.
“An individual can really have a significant impact on changing total greenhouse gas emissions and energy use,” he said. “We may not be a huge university, but we’re a classic example of cumulative effects —where all of us together doing a small thing can make a big impact.”
Quinn applauded Mount Royal University’s President's Task Force on Sustainability, which was created by David Docherty in 2012, as well as efforts to promote public transportation such as the U-Pass. University officials are also planning to create a sustainability co-ordinator position to help lower the campus’ environmental footprint.
Sept. 23, 2014 — Bryan Weismiller