Math students at Analy High School in Sonoma County solved a real-life story problem when they came up with a plan to reduce carbon emissions from their schoolmates’ daily commute. It started in 2006 when teacher David Casey’s advanced-placement statistics class realized that, all told, students at Analy were driving 42,000 miles a week to and from school. Most lived in Sebastopol, within three miles of the school, but the student body of 1,300 was releasing a lot of carbon with single passenger car rides. The math students surveyed schoolmates and found that very few of them carpooled, walked, or rode their bikes to school.
The following year, the classroom math project became a districtwide competition. All three schools in the West Sonoma County Union High School District–Analy, El Molino, and Laguna–set ambitious carbon reduction goals and ran a six-week campaign to reduce single passenger car rides. Local businesses got involved by offering raffle prizes of bagels, pizza, bike tune-ups, and the like.
Analy High surpassed its goal of cutting commute emissions 20 percent, with a 50 percent increase in students bicycling to school and a 15 percent increase in those carpooling. The program, dubbed eCO2mmute, is now entering its fourth year. Casey’s statistics class, which oversees eCO2mmute, shifted its focus last year from reducing single passenger car rides to lowering total vehicle miles traveled. And next year students plan to devote an entire semester to the program.
Twenty to 25 percent of morning commuters are parents driving their kids to school, according to Barry Vesser of Sonoma County’s Climate Change Protection Campaign, so reducing student auto commute miles can make a meaningful contribution to lowering Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions. Just as important, it gives students a chance to protect the environment in a hands-on, student-directed way.
A manual for recreating the eCO2mmute program at any school can be found at the Climate Protection Campaign website, www.climateprotectioncampaign.org, under “Cool Schools.”