Daniel O’Doherty, Year 8, Pacific Hills Christian School



My project aimed to investigate the carbon emissions of transport to and from school for both Junior and Middle schools (years K – 8).

I surveyed both quantitative data (the number of trips, mode of transport, distance travelled, type of car) and qualitative data (reasons for travelling by car or bus).

Summary of key findings

  • More than 3,000 trips were surveyed for 160 students from Junior and Middle School
  • The average distance travelled to school is 9.6 km
  • Modes of transport: Car trips outnumber bus trips by 3:1.
  • Younger students almost always travel by car. 
  • As age goes up the travel carbon footprint goes down: Middle school takes the bus to school more often than Junior school.
  • Key reasons for not taking the bus include:
    • Early morning classes
    • No suitable bus route
    • Parents anxious about children taking the bus (especially younger children)
    • Student missed the bus/ gets up too late
  • Extrapolating my results I calculated the total CO2 emissions for travel for the whole school to be 505.90 tonnes per year.
  • If all students caught the bus it would reduce carbon emissions by 80%

Recommendations – Five point plan to reduce emissions from school travel:

  1. Carbon-buddies (older student who helps the younger ones on the bus). 

    Parents are concerned about their younger students catching the bus. Trusted older students could be assigned as ‘travel buddies’.

  2. Better planning. 

    The government should make sure schools are built near public transport and jobs.

  3. Mini-buses. 

    Local companies could sponsor mini-buses to pick up students whose houses are not near a suitable major bus route.

  4. Tree planting by the garden club at school. 

    I calculated that to offset emissions for the whole school you would need to plant 1,892 trees every year – less than 2 trees per student per year. The school could have a fund raiser to buy seedlings to give to students to plant at home. Or they could invest in a plantation. It would cost about $ 1.67 per student per year to offset their emissions with plantation timber.

  5. Car-pooling

    Families who live near each other could be encouraged to car-pool, to reduce the number of car trips.