Cornell adopts low-carbon travel policy

Campus Sustainability Office May 6, 2020
Zoom participants on a laptop
University Administrators participate in a virtual forum via webinar.  Virtual conferencing is an alternative means of event participantion, and uses a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions used during air travel. | Photo: Lindsay France, Cornell University

Cornell has adopted an official travel policy that prioritizes employee use of low-carbon event attendance (remote & virtual) and low-carbon transportation (reducing air travel).

As of the most recent greenhouse gas inventory for the campus, business travel accounted for about 10% of the overall campus carbon footprint. 

Policy 3.2: Travel Expenses

Means of Travel "Low-Carbon Travel"

"To achieve Cornell’s climate neutrality goals, you are expected to consider the environmental impacts of your trip. For instance, attending a meeting remotely by telephone or the Internet has the lowest carbon impact (and the lowest cost) and traveling by bus, train, or carpool emits less carbon than traveling by plane (pg 17)."

Guidance to use low-carbon travel options was added to support the University's goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2035.  Air travel is the most carbon-intensive form of transportation, while remote-participation or travel by carpool or train greatly reduces an individual's contribution to climate change.

The travel policy was first updated to include carbon considerations in 2016.  The changes were upheld in the most recent revision on April 21, 2020. University policies apply to all units, colleges, and employees.