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IU Northwest students measure the ‘carbon footprint’ of their campus

How large is the carbon footprint of a commuter university campus in northwest Indiana? Some Indiana University Northwest students and their professors have been finding out as part of the fall 2009 course G185 -- Global Environmental Change.

The class posted an online survey in which IU Northwest students, faculty and staff were asked to divulge their driving habits (anonymously). The survey also asked respondents what sort of alternative travel arrangements, such as carpooling, they might be willing to consider to reduce their carbon footprint.

Peter Avis

Photo by Christopher Sheid

Peter Avis, assistant professor of biology, talks to students in the G185 class.

Print-Quality Photo

The interdisciplinary G185 class is team-taught by Julie Peller, associate professor of chemistry and department chair; Peter Avis, assistant professor of biology; and Erin Argyilan, assistant professor of meteorology. The course was introduced in 2008 in response to increased student interest in the topic of global climate change.

"In this course, we strive to teach the science that will enable students to act as informed and responsible global citizens," Peller said. "Toward this aim, the students in our class are conducting groundbreaking research on campus to determine the amount of carbon dioxide that is released and absorbed through activities such as energy/product use, food services, and travel."

The G185 professors hope their students' research will form the basis for development of a sustainability plan for IU Northwest that will allow the campus to contribute toward the environmental health and stewardship of Northwest Indiana.

"As a regional campus, IU Northwest has made it a priority to maintain and better our local community through education and service," Peller said. "We believe that we must also set an example by committing to environmentally sustainable practices. IU Northwest has a unique opportunity, and an important responsibility, to address and reduce the overall carbon footprint generated by a commuter campus."

G185 students will present their findings in two sessions during the second week of December. The first presentation will take place today (Dec. 8) at 4 p.m. in the first-floor lobby of Marram Hall. The second session will take place on Thursday (Dec. 10) at the same time and place. The campus and community are invited to these presentations.