Carbon Cost of Commuting

By Admir Durakovic

What is the cost of carbon commuting? The Equinox — along with Professor Mo Krochmal’s fall semester news writing class, Stephen Sterling from, data from the FDU campus executive and the NJCNC (New Jersey College News Commons) — did the math.

The Equinox requested and received a database from the campus executive’s office, detailing commuters and residents from this year‘s enrollment. The database did not include names, just communities and numbers.

Fairleigh Dickinson University has 8,100 students enrolled in classes on the metro campus this semester. Only 712 of those students dorm, or 9%. This leaves FDU with over 90%, or 7,388, of the students commuting to and from their homes to get to class.

The distance each commuter travels will vary. For example, there are 196 commuter students from FDU’s backyard in Hackensack. There are also 13 students from Egg Harbor Township who make the 127.5 mile trip to get to class. We all leave a mark on the climate when we commute to class.

According to Arcadia Power, the average passenger vehicle emits about 404 grams of CO2 (carbon dioxide) per mile. By estimating distances with Google Maps, the average commute to FDU is 24.5 miles, or 9,898 grams of CO2. If every commuter from the 148 communities that have 10 or more commuters, 6,123 students, made one round trip, everyone will have collectively emitted 121 million grams of CO2 that day. That’s a lot of gas.

Based on the average distance for one commute, each of the commuters will have traveled 49 miles in one round trip. The distance for three round trips, or the amount of traveling for one week of classes, equals 147 miles or 4,140 miles for both semesters.

Collectively, the 6,123 commuters will have traveled 27 million miles in one school year. 27 million miles equals 11 billion emitted grams or 12,125 metric tons of CO2.

For context, “a tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year,” according to a study by NC State University. This means it would take 42 trees to absorb one ton of CO2 and 582,000 trees to absorb the average amount of CO2 from FDU commuters in one school year alone.

Thankfully, there are about 917.4 million trees in New Jersey’s forest land, according to a 2013 report from the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the US Department of Energy, the cost offset of a metric ton of CO2 is $10.

We collectively emit 12,125 metric tons, so the total cost would equal $120,125. The total cost divided by the number of commuters would equal $19.40 per student commuter.






fdu commute (1)We analyzed the numbers to determine distance from each town to FDU Metro. We looked at commuting from towns with 10 or more FDU Metro campus commuters, or 6,123 commuters in 204 communities in New York and New Jersey – from Egg Harbor to the south and north to Monroe, N.Y.