Student view:

Small changes, huge impacts

March 2, 2015

Maxx Marano, Megan Bergeson, Erin Oldani are juniors and Emily Aron is a sophomore. All four are members of the MSU Honors College and majoring in education.

We are four aspiring elementary school teachers with the goal to communicate with others the power of coming together to create change. The issue of global climate change was one focus of our Integrated Science Education course.

During these few weeks, each of us became more aware of our everyday actions affecting our environment. Once we had more knowledge about climate change and an individual’s impact, we decided there was a way to be more environmentally conscious and to take action to educate others.

For our honors project, we collectively created a wall display in the hallway of North Kedzie Hall to help others visualize the pressing issue and how small changes can create huge impacts on our environment.

We compiled data from 100 ISE students who are all non-science majors and future elementary teachers. The students tracked their energy usage for a month, keeping track of how much they used transportation, heat and electricity. At the end of the month they compiled their data and calculated their carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint is a representation of how much carbon dioxide a person emits into the air due to daily activities, such as heating a house, turning on lights and driving a car. Any of these activities cause a fuel to burn, either in a car, bus or power plant. When a fuel burns, more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere. As a result, the excess CO2 in the atmosphere traps even more heat on the earth, which causes global climate change.

By tracking their daily activities, ISE students were able to determine exactly how many pounds of carbon dioxide they were adding to the atmosphere. Next, we asked students to come up with different strategies they could use in the future to decrease their carbon footprint. Some of the most popular methods included carpooling, turning off the lights and conserving heat.

foot print showing reduction of energy use

After incorporating these new changes, students calculated how many fewer pounds of carbon dioxide would enter the atmosphere. It was determined that ISE students put 32,000 fewer pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere in just one month.

If all Michigan State students made similar changes, we would put an estimated 17 million fewer pounds of CO2 in the air each month, and if all Michigan teachers did this, CO2 emissions would decrease by 37 million pounds. These numbers show how just a few simple changes in our daily lives can have a huge impact on the world around us.

Overall, everyone has the ability to make a difference in reducing their carbon footprint and protecting our environment for future generations. From small to big changes in an individual’s daily routine, the amount of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere can be significantly decreased.

Even if living in a dorm, apartment or house, college students can make numerous adjustments to their carbon footprint. As one student in ISE remarked “If each person does something about it, that can add up quickly. Every person counts.”

Choosing to walk, bike, ride the bus or carpool to classes can help to decrease the carbon dioxide emission from transportation methods. Furthermore, being conscious of ways to reduce electrical and heat energy use both saves on finances and the amount of carbon dioxide emission.

It is important to know which electrical devices use more energy, such as a phone charger versus a washing machine, as well as maintaining regulations on heating use. While there may not be immediate short-term impacts to modifying activities in your daily life, the long-term benefits to reducing your carbon footprint will benefit generations to come.

4 students