Student Travel


While not a standard category as defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Stanford’s Scope 3 Emissions Working Group resolved to account for this category within the university’s scope 3 emissions reporting. This category includes student travel during breaks, study abroad travel, and travel associated with student visitors.

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  • Travel during breaks: Data was collected using a survey that recorded undergraduate and graduate student travel to and from the main campus at the beginning and end of the academic year and during Thanksgiving, Winter and Spring breaks. Flight routes were used to determine flight distances, to which distance-specific emissions factors published by the EPA and a radiative forcing factor were applied. Ground transportation was also included, but was found to represent only 3% of total emissions. The resulting footprint was scaled to represent the size and demography of the student body. 

  • Study abroad travel: Data on the number of students studying abroad by location was collected from 36 academic programs and databases. Assumptions were made regarding the destination airport, since that often was not recorded in the data.Ground transportation was not included, with the exception of railway travel used by students to get to study abroad destinations.

  • Visitor travel: Registration data for Stanford’s “Big 5” events (Convocation, Reunion Homecoming, Family Weekend, Admit Weekend, and Commencement) was used to estimate travel emissions in this category. However, there are many other sources of visitor travel that are not currently accounted for. Because of the imprecision of these estimates, these emissions are not currently included in the university’s reported student travel emissions.

Total emissions in this category equaled 115,955 MTCO2e in 2019. 

For more information on how to travel sustainably, visit this web page.