Reducing Company CO2 the easy way, Carpool, Flex-hours and Telecommuting

Many cities and companies are promoting carpooling as an easy way to reduce carbon emissions. There is little doubt that their are enormous benefits to carpooling but from a commuters point of view (i.e. someone trying to get to work in the least amount of time) it seems like carpooling will take additional time. However, if we do a little commuter math, we can determine that, on average, carpooling actually saves time. Why? Let’s say, for example, that every commuter made an effort to car pool. An average communiting time to downtown Toronto during rush-hour from surrounding community is about 1.5 hours. If we were able to reduce the number of cars by even 1/4th there would be a significant decrease in average commute time, possibly 30 minutes. And even if we don’t succeed in that amount of reduction, there are carpool lanes for cars with more than one person. The time saving becomes more significant over time because congestion is increasing with even more severe impacts on commuting time. There is a certain volume of traffic that the road ways can easily handle. Up until that point, there is very little impact by adding traffic. But after that limit is reached, the congestion increases considerably for every additional car. So removing even 5% of the cars would reduce commute time by more than 5% on average. It only stands to reason then that every car we get off the road will make a positive difference in reducing commute time and CO2 emissions. For the individual commuter, sometimes there is a trade-off if they have to stop and wait for a carpool or go out of their way to drop someone off, but as more people opt for carpooling, there will be better matches. Imagine if 25% of the vehicles were taken off the road. Commute times may be reduced by 30 minutes which would easily make up for any inconvenience.

Benefits of Carpooling

What are the other benefits of carpooling? First, you make friends, get to meet someone new and get to know them well because you see them on a regular basis. Second, you get to share costs of commuting. If you still have a car, at very least you save on gas. If not, you may get to save on repairs, insurance and other costs. Third, if you’re riding with someone else, you may get a little more time to sleep before getting to work. Fourth, in many cities you save time because you get to use designated carpool lanes. Fifth, if your company supports carpooling, you get to leave at a regularly scheduled time(and for reasons I’ll explain later, this is also good for the company). Sixth, you help to save the planet. In the battle against climate change, you get to reduce carbon emissions by sharing a ride directly (more riders is better) and by reducing average commute time for everyone, you help every vehicle on the road because all of them enjoy a slightly shorter commute time. Yes, as even one car comes off the road, there is just a little less congestion and every other car benefits a little and contributes a little less carbon.

Getting your Company Involved

There are many ways to participate in car-pooling and there are many direct and indirect benefits to the company for doing so, not the least of which is your company’s contribution to reducing CO2. But before you roll-out a carpool plan, it is like many other projects, you need think about how to inform staff and management on the benefits to them and to others. Following are a few steps to consider:

  1. Have a sustainability speaker come in to do lunch and learns.
    (Most of us who are involved in developing Future Oriented Leadership and Sustainable Cultures would love to speak to your organization)
  2. Have a sustainability speaker at a sustainability program roll-out meeting 
  3. Find other ways to educate employees on the urgency of reducing their CO2 contribution, and guide and encourage employees to activitely participate.
  4. Have a means to measure and report on impact so that you can promote the benefits to others.
  5. As with all other organizational changes, this change is behavioural and requires some adjustment. Train managers ahead on the benefits to the organization and to the planet so they will support the plan and deal with any minor inconveniences appropriately (e.g. like having to let employees go home at scheduled times in order to meet their rides). Employees benefit from less stress commuting so are more productive during working hours. Managers benefit from being more organized and respecting their employee’s time rather than randomly overworking them.
  6. Speak to other businesses who have successfully implemented Carpooling plans.
  7. Post your own carpool sign-up lists and promote car-pooling internally.
  8. Promote car-pooling by giving incentives such as prefered parking spots to those individuals who make the effort.
  9. Sign your company up on a Carpooling site.

Businesses who are interested in the environment can sign-up on one or more of these software packages including the one offered by the local communities (in Toronto and surrounding area, Smart Commute) and make their offices as destination points, making it easier for willing riders to find each other.

Getting Involved as an Individual

Many Cities including Toronto and surrounding communities make carpooling software available for free to users. You can sign-up and get matched to someone with a similar route and time automatically. If you live in the extended GTA or Hamilton area, you can sign-up for free through http://www.smartcommute.ca. For individuals in other locations, it is well worth your time to do a little searching to find carpooling web-sites.

If you’ve never done it before, give carpooling a try. You may actually enjoy it.

A few other ideas for reducing carbon related to communiting.

For some companies, another easy option for contributing to carbon reduction is by permitting flex hours, which allows employees to drive at non-peak communing hours, thereby reducing congestion, travel times and CO2 emissions.

Tele-commuting is an even better option which gets cars off the road entirely. As with all other changes in employment practices, implementing tele-commuting will require some thought and possibly new equipment and tools but it can work very effectively with side benefits for employees and it can also be a tremendous retention tool for keeping forward thinking employees.

Encourage biking to work. This is not only good for reducing carbon, it can help to promote health of employees. Providing showering and change facilities is helpful but not always required. Definitely providing a safe place to lock bikes is helpful.

Government Involvement

For Governments, besides providing access to carpooling software, they can consider implementing tax breaks for companies that can demonstrate CO2 reduction by either actively working towards helping employees travel at non-peak hours, engage in carpooling, promoting carpooling plans and enabling telecommuting.

Some governments have also paid individuals for traveling at non-peak hours by charging other commuters congestion charges for traveling during peak hours.

Many governments have created special lanes for carpooling and of course for bicycles.

The Car Pooling experience

Not everyone who tries car-pooling has a great experience, but most do. At this momemt, most of my work is done at off-peak hours or from my home, However, every car pooling experience I’ve had has been very positive and well worth the effort. If you haven’t tried it, make the effort. In almost all cases, the benefits easily outweigh the negatives.

All the best,

Garth Schmalenberg
web:  http://www.hbi-leadership.com
e-mail: garth@hbi-leadership.com
Phone: 416-919-6598
twitter: http://www.twitter.com/gschmalenberg

If you find these idesas valuable, please share them through your favorite bookmarking site or by e-mail. Also , please share your comments and any links to carpool web-sites that you’ve found helpful.

1 Comment

  1. India Said,

    November 2, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    Carpooling is a good way to reduce the carbon emission. But we should take the adverse effect of carpooling into our account.