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Sustainability 2014, 6(5), 2718-2735; doi:10.3390/su6052718

On the Travel Emissions of Sustainability Science Research

Sustainable Solutions Initiative, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
These authors contributed equally to this work.
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Received: 19 February 2014 / Revised: 17 April 2014 / Accepted: 18 April 2014 / Published: 8 May 2014
(This article belongs to the Section Social Ecology and Sustainability)
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Abstract

This paper presents data on carbon emissions generated by travel undertaken for a major sustainability science research effort. Previous research has estimated CO2 emissions generated by individual scientists, by entire academic institutions, or by international climate conferences. Here, we sought to investigate the size, distribution and factors affecting the carbon emissions of travel for sustainability research in particular. Reported airline and automobile travel of participants in Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative were used to calculate the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to research-related travel over a three-year period. Carbon emissions varied substantially by researcher and by purpose of travel. Travel for the purpose of dissemination created the largest carbon footprint. This result suggests that alternative networking and dissemination models are needed to replace the high carbon costs of annual society meetings. This research adds to literature that questions whether the cultural demands of contemporary academic careers are compatible with climate stabilization. We argue that precise record keeping and routine analysis of travel data are necessary to track and reduce the climate impacts of sustainability research. We summarize the barriers to behavioral change at individual and organizational levels and conclude with suggestions for reducing climate impacts of travel undertaken for sustainability research. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon footprint; sustainability science; travel; research culture; climate change; university carbon emissions carbon footprint; sustainability science; travel; research culture; climate change; university carbon emissions
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Waring, T.; Teisl, M.; Manandhar, E.; Anderson, M. On the Travel Emissions of Sustainability Science Research. Sustainability 2014, 6, 2718-2735.

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