How Green Is Your Commute?
Your daily commute — it can be pretty unavoidable. Unfortunately, many of us do not have the convenience of living close to where we work, and we have to make the long trek to and from our offices each day. Rush hour and bumper to bumper traffic are never great for our stress levels, but they can be even worse for the planet.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, for every 1 gallon of gasoline burned in a vehicle, 19.6 lbs. (8.91 kg) of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. It’s no wonder that the transportation sector is accountable for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the second greatest source of emissions in the County.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to modify your commute to reduce your emissions, as well as save time and money.
Here we’ve compiled a list of ways to green your commute: from changing the way you travel to changing the way you work.
Take a New Route:
With hundreds of widespread stations and stops, taking public transit is easy and convenient!
MCDOT Ride-On, WMATA Rail and Bus, and Capital Bikeshare are all cleaner ways to commute. DEP’s Green Business Program Manager, Doug Weisburger, knows a thing or two about public transportation—He’s been taking the bus to work for years.
For Doug, taking the bus started off as a way to live a more sustainable life– “I wanted to walk the talk”– but he has found other unexpected benefits to greening his commute.
“Taking the bus allows quiet time. It lessens the pain of traffic, and I can enjoy my book and peace of mind rather than dealing with congested roadways”.
Since changing up his commute, Doug has found other ways to use green transportation, such as taking his bike to his local Farmer’s Market. Like his commute, he says that biking to the Farmer’s Market lessens stress because he doesn’t have to worry about finding a parking space in a busy area.
Check out our local transit providers’ websites to locate the nearest stop or station to you. You’ll find that no matter where you are, a bus, bike, or metro station is close by!
Get On Your Feet:
Feel like you aren’t getting your 60 minutes of daily exercise in? Switch your car for a bike and your dress shoes for sneakers and take an active approach! There are tons of bike paths and walking paths in the Montgomery County/DC area.
Susan Kornacki, DEP’s Outreach and Education Specialist, is a big fan of her walk to work. “As a newcomer to this neighborhood, I’m getting to know this area and I love getting to notice something new everyday!”
Susan hasn’t always lived right next to her office, though. Like many of us, she used to spend a cumulative 2 hours driving to and from work.
“It was awful. I would arrive at work tired from my long stressful drive. It was putting a lot of wear and tear on my car and contributing a lot of carbon emissions. I decided that, for me and my life, it made much more sense to move. It’s worth it being closer to work and spending more time doing things I actually enjoy.”
These days Susan enjoys her morning walk and uses it as an opportunity to get her blood flowing and come in ready for the day. She says walking to work has also encouraged her to use other forms of green transportation for work-related errands and meetings, such as carpooling and public transportation.
Of course, DEP isn’t expecting you to move so that you can walk to work. However, if you already live fairly close to your office, try walking or biking to work one day and see how different your commuting experience can be. Exercise is good for physical and mental health, and the time spent outside can be a nice change of pace after sitting in an office!
Change the Way You Work:
Based on where you live, you might have no other option but to use a car to get to work. That doesn’t mean you can’t still be green!
Flex-time, telecommuting, and compressed schedules are all great ways to collaborate with your bosses and coworkers for an easier and cleaner way to get to work.
After making a plan with his boss, Watershed Outreach Planner Ryan Zerbe was able to telework once a week, and has been doing so for the past year and a half.
“I have a terrible commute. It’s about an hour and a half each way. Before I started telecommuting, I drove about 2,000 miles per month. Now that I telework, I’m driving 500 fewer miles per month. I save $300 per month, and I’m reducing my carbon emissions by 1.4 metric tons per month, and I’m gaining 15 extra hours of family time per month. The impacts of my telework are equivalent to removing 5,478 lbs of coal from being burned!”
Now that he knows just how much CO2 and money his drive demands, Ryan says it impacts his decisions when he does need to use his car. He and his family frequently walk to their local grocery store, and when he has to use his car, he tries to run all his errands at once to reduce miles driven. Ryan is also very mindful about the fuel efficiency of different cars, and now prioritizes that factor when car shopping.
Check with your employer to see if teleworking or alternative schedules are possible for you. You’ll gain extra time and productivity by working from home! If you’d like to calculate your savings like Ryan did, click on the bottom three Telework Resources included below.
Little Changes, Everyday
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you choose to change up your commute—there’s no right or wrong way as long as you’re putting in the effort to reduce congestion and pollution! MCDOT’s Transit Marketing Specialist, Derrick Harrigan, couldn’t agree more.
“Different modes of transportation are not for everybody. Not everyone is willing to give up their car commute, not everyone likes public transportation, and some people do not know how to ride a bicycle. But what I would encourage folks to do is to figure out what does work for them. We’re not asking to change everything about your commute – just consider, and start with, little changes.”
Derrick himself made the switch, now taking the metro or his bike instead of his personal vehicle. “The average person in the DMV sits in traffic 70 hours a year. Just along Rockville Pike and Wisconsin Avenue, there’s almost 500,000 cars a week passing through. That’s way too much traffic and pollution, and we need to do something about that.”
At DEP, we agree. You may find that one of the ideas or resources we discussed is great for your way of life, or maybe there’s a totally new and innovative method that you want to try out. Whether you’re telecommuting, metroing, skipping, or skateboarding, DEP will be cheering you on every step of the way!
Guaranteed Ride Home: if one of the reasons you don’t use alternative transportation is because of the fear of being stranded, Guaranteed Ride Home is for you.
Unexpected weather events can affect your ability to bike home, and family emergencies might require you to get home before your carpool is ready to leave. Fortunately, Guaranteed Ride Home is here to help during an emergency. This free service will provide you with transportation up to four times a year, and is available to all registrants who use alternative transportation twice a week.
Rideshare: if you’re looking to change your commute but don’t want to lose the efficiency of driving, grab a buddy and start a carpool!
Or, if you don’t have anyone in your office to commute with, use Commuter Connections’ Rideshare program, which will match you with other commuters with similar destinations. The County even offers free Park and Ride lots to carpool and vanpool members so they can meet fellow members in a central location and safely leave their cars behind.
‘Pool Rewards: if you do choose to carpool, or you choose to participate in a vanpool, it can pay off– literally. Commuter Connections’ ‘Pool Rewards program encourages residents to make the switch by rewarding vanpool members with $200 monthly, and carpool members with up to $130 over a 90-day period. To qualify, participants must carpool or vanpool at least twice a week.
Get-In: Get-In is a program that offers a $35 subsidy for all County employees who use public transit, commuter rail, or a carpool or vanpool to get to work. The program also offers preferential parking for carpools and vanpools, and provides temporary parking passes for employees who might need to drive to work one day.
By Elizabeth Scanlon, DEP Intern.
Liz will be leaving DEP at the end of August to continue her journey in the environmental field. We wish her all the luck in the world!