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Transportation Pathway

transportation pathway iconTravel varies according to where we live and where we need to go. Every mode of transportation has an impact on an individual’s health, community, and the environment. Often our modes of transportation rely heavily on methods that contribute to significant increases of carbon dioxide (CO2)—a minor but very important component of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is released through natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions, as well as through human activities such as deforestation, land use changes, and the burning of fossil fuels.

While there are noisy, polluting, uncomfortable, expensive, and slow ways to move, there are also quiet, clean, comfortable, cheap, and quick routes from Point A to Point B. Schools can do a lot to improve the way staff and students travel. There may be new modes of transportation to test and promote, or new routes taking students through green spaces instead of along congested thoroughfares. Increasing safe walking and bike routes to school also promote a healthier lifestyle through daily physical activity. Schools can strategize, raise awareness, and participate in sustainable solutions to transportation, reducing fuel consumption as well as air, noise, and water pollution.

Kids holding signs to stop car idling

Fast Facts

  • CO2 is a major contributor to climate change. Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began.
  • According to Safe Routes to School, half of students attending school in the U.S. are dropped off in the family car, while 25 million students ride a bus to school.
  • Approximately 9.9 million students (25 percent) live within one mile of school, and only half of these students walk or bike to school.
  • The annual cost to bus children to school—between $100 to $500 million—could substantially be reduced through improved walking conditions for students.
  • The average school bus transports 54 student passengers, replacing approximately 36 family vehicles.
  • Walking one mile to and from school each day generates two-thirds of the 60 minutes of physical activity recommended per day.

Following the Framework

Utilize the Seven Step Framework to complete your pathway.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

Transportation Audit

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Transportation pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan | Blank Action Plan

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

Transportation Audit

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Transportation pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan | Blank Action Plan

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Sustainable Development Goals

goal 3 - good health and well-being
goal 4 - quality education
Goal 11 - Sustainable cities and communities
goal 13 - climate action
goal 17 - partnerships for the goals

Top 10 Tips for Transportation

  • Bring together the right people: Identify people who want to make walking and bicycling to school safe and appealing for children. A variety of community members with diverse expertise can tackle many issues.
  • Hold an initial meeting and set a vision: In your first meeting, envision what you hope to accomplish and generate next steps for the group members.
  • Gather information and identify issues: Collect information that will help you identify what program elements are necessary and allow you to measure the impact of the program later.
  • Identify solutions: Solutions to the issues you identify will include a combination of education, encouragement, engineering and enforcement strategies. Safety is the first consideration.
  • Make a plan. It need not be lengthy. Include encouragement, enforcement, education and engineering strategies. Create a time frame.
  • Get the plan and people moving: Hold a fun kick-off event such as participating in International Walk to School Day or celebrating a Walking Wednesday.
  • Evaluate, adjust and keep moving: To sustain the program, consider building additional program champions and letting people know about your successes.

Walking

  • Always be aware and visible.
  • Always walk on sidewalks.
  • Always use pedestrian crossings.
  • Always be responsible near roads--no horseplay.
  • Always take care when crossing bike lanes.

Biking

  • Always wear high-visibility clothing.
  • Always wear a helmet that fits.
  • Always check the brakes and tire pressure.
  • Always use bike lanes where provided.
  • Always use lights at dusk and dawn, and in any event of poor visibility--err on the side of caution.
  • Always ride a bike that is the right size for you.
  • Never use a cell phone when biking.

  • Communities and schools across the country are using walk- or bike-to-school days as the first step to change community culture and create environments that are more inviting for everyone, young and old.

  • The Golden Boot Challenge, a U.K.-based competition, promotes alternative modes of transportation. Students score points when they walk, cycle, carpool, park-n-ride, or use public transport to get to school.
  • The challenge is a great way to start some friendly competition between classes. It can be run every week, month or semester. The class with the highest score is awarded the coveted Golden Boot Award for their efforts.

  • A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It's as simple as that.
  • It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school or as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a rotating schedule of trained volunteers.
  • A variation is the bicycle train, in which adults supervise children riding their bikes to school.
  • The flexibility of the walking school bus makes it appealing to communities of all sizes and varying needs.

  • Walking to school is a great idea, but first determine the route’s ease of accessibility and overall safety.
  • Use this walkability checklist (PDF) to support the development of your Eco-Action Plan.

  • Some communities are more bikeable than others. How does yours rate?
  • Use this bikeability checklist (PDF) to determine if your community is a safe and enjoyable place to bike to school.

  • Make reducing your school's transportation footprint fun by setting up a competition with other schools in your district.
  • Award prizes for the school with the greatest reduction in its transportation footprint and the school that develops the best transportation Eco-Code.
  • Have a district-wide event celebrating all schools and their successes.

  • To determine if the school needs an anti-idling management policy, have students record information about cars and buses idling near the school each morning and afternoon. They should track the number of vehicles and the length of time each spends idling. Summarize this information and present to your administration.
  • Check out the EPA.'s Clean School Bus resources to learn more about how to reduce emissions from older school buses.

Explore the idea of adding electric buses to your school bus fleet.

Biodiesel is an alternative energy source made, in most cases, from used vegetable oil. Consider starting a district-wide campaign to use it in school buses.

Get more information on biodiesel and where to find it.