You’ve heard the stats on the chain of causality between cars, carbon emissions and global warming. Of course, carpooling or public transit would be the greener option for commuting, but for most of us it isn’t always the most convenient means of getting to work, or we live in areas that aren’t linked with bus or rail.
But did you know motor vehicles in the US release about 1.7 billion tons1 of greenhouse gases a year? Estimates show that one ton of carbon dioxide emissions would fill a one story ranch house2. Now picture 17 billion ranch houses floating in the atmosphere! Not only is commuting bad for the planet, but a recent UK study found that long commutes contribute to anxiety, increased blood pressure, and risk of depression and obesity3.
In an effort to curb carbon emissions, highway congestion, and promote employee wellbeing, CST drafted an Alternative Transportation Plan (ATP). Rolled out in 2012, the plan helped us meet our environmental and social goals through the promotion of carpooling, subsidizing trips on public transportation and outfitting our facilities to be more “bike-friendly. The ATP has limited single-occupancy commuting trips to our US offices and has made a big impression on CST’s corporate culture of sustainability.
In regard to our environmental impact, 2014 estimates show that by following the ATP, CST employees reduced driving 194,000 commuter miles. In regards to environmental impact, that’s the equivalent of driving 8 times around the world! Having a carpooling buddy to joke with in “stop n go” traffic on Route 128, a leisurely train ride to read or catch up on work, or a bike ride along the Charles River from North Station provides a bit of variety to the work week. Last year, ninety-eight employees participated in the ATP with our 2014 totals of 5,900 alternative trips, which prevented emission of 88 tons of carbon dioxide. Our innovative transportation plan has been recognized with the Massachusetts Excellence in Commuter Options award (Mass-ECO) at the Pinnacle level from 2013-2015.
While 2015 began with record snowfall and bitter cold temperatures here in Massachusetts, a handful of dedicated bikers, walkers, and carpoolers at CST trudged through the harsh weather during the winter months. Seasoned year-round bikers and walkers saw a reinforcement in the spring and summer months where at times CST sees an upward of 20 bikers a day. Despite challenging barriers of highway and side streets, CST cyclists placed 3rd in the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge among companies of our size. We are proud to report that the 2015 bike challenge put us at 2nd place in our division and 7th in the state of Massachusetts. CST “Cell Cyclers” totaled 2,691 miles among 38 riders, many of who biked the entire way from Boston.
Not only does alternative transportation benefit the planet and personal health, CST’s ATP at our US facilities has developed a system for unique rewards for employees. We’ve created a tiered point system for alternative transportation trips: participants earn 1 point for carpooling and public transportation and 2 points for biking and walking. 620 CST employees can gain up to two bonus vacation “green days” per annum or alternatively can exchange points for cash rewards at various levels. This system serves as a motivation to bike to work on rainy days, while also encouraging a sense of competition seen in climbing the green points “leaderboard.”
Since CST's US offices aren’t located in a major city, cycle commuting and public transportation can be a challenge. Despite this, cycling to work has grown at CST and is seen as part of a growing trend in the US. Rising gas prices, an increased desire for exercise, and an escape from rush hour traffic has drawn commuters to biking, which is reflected in a 62% increase in bike commuting from 2000 to 20134. For those who aren’t up for biking to work, statistics show that if everyone committed to carpooling once per week we could reduce traffic around major cities by 20%, and everyone who participates can save money at the pump.
In addition to embracing alternative transportation, CST allocates preferred parking spaces for LEFE (low-emission fuel efficient) vehicles and offers a $1,000 subsidy for the purchase of automobiles that average 45+ mpg5 on the highway. Currently, over 50 CST employees have made a commitment to driving a fuel-efficient, hybrid or electric car to work.
Would you be willing to bike to work two to three times in a month from the Spring to Fall? Or can you make a weekly commitment to carpool with a co-worker? It's not as hard as you'd think and chances are it will soon become part of your routine. Better yet, set a yearly challenge with your co-worker and take your commitment to alternative transportation to the next level.
Want to learn more? Check out the CST Corporate Social Responsibility page.
1. The standard has been raised to 45 mpg for the remainder of 2015
2. League of American Bicyclists “Bike commute data released” http://bikeleague.org/content/updated-bike-commute-data-released
3. US Department of Energy “Reduce climate change” https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/climate.shtml
4. Chido, Jenifer “ What does a ton of CO2 look like?” http://buildingenergy.cx-associates.com/2012/06/what-does-a-ton-of-co2-look-like/
5. Office for National Statistics “ Commuting and personal well-being” http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_351954.pdf