Outside of avoiding carbon emissions, the first and theoretically most effective step we can take moving towards a net-zero carbon project center is to reduce the emissions we produce. This project focuses on 3 specific areas where emissions are produced by IQP project centers, which are air travel emissions, ground travel emissions, and emissions from lodgings – in our case, a hotel.
Air travel contributes a significant portion of the emissions caused by students at the Puerto Rico project center. However, alternatives to flying are rare, and even in cases where they do exist, they are often not a viable alternative for the needs of the people who would be flying. Additionally, when speaking with some project center directors, we learned that at the Melbourne project center it is often necessary to fly several times over the course of the IQP because of how far apart from many places are in Australia. These facts all add up to mean that the only real alternative to air travel would be to not fly to project centers at all. However, a large part of the WPI plan includes the option to travel for the IQP experience, so not traveling at all would undercut much of what makes the IQP so special. As an additional point, not traveling would make working with sponsors in significantly different time zones much harder because of the lack of common working hours.
Reducing emissions caused by ground transportation is more straightforward compared to air travel. Taking fewer Ubers (substituted by walking or a bus) or ordering less delivery food would result in fewer emissions from ground transportation. The extent to which this would work is limited, however, as with longer trips, it can be difficult to rely on buses and walking to fulfill travel needs in the timespan needed. Additionally, several other project sites are located in places with consistently available public transportation, lessening the need for services like Uber.
Finally, emissions caused by a hotel stay can be reduced through a variety of means. The biggest change that can be made is to house students in apartments or dorms, as some project centers already do. Barring that, however, there are several green hotel programs, some of which will be included at the end of the section, that set standards for hotels that want to become more environmentally sustainable. Additionally, encouraging students to maintain environmentally friendly habits like turning off the lights when leaving a room or turning down the A/C can have an impact as well.