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Environmental Sustainability

6 Ways to Encourage Sustainable Commuting

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Jeff Gapinski

A crowded subway car

One component of the return to office plan that people may be taking for granted is their commute. Not necessarily the pros and cons of commuting versus working from home but the actual method by which they’ll get to work. However they made their way to the office in the past is probably how they’re planning to get there once again, and that’s why now is the time to encourage sustainable commuting. It will take some time to get used to going back into the office, but once we do, it’s likely we’ll fall into old habits unless we start encouraging each other to make our commutes more sustainable right now. 

If you think employees won’t be open to it, consider this research that found that just over 70% of working people want their commutes to be more sustainable. The challenge is that they still rank time and convenience as more important than sustainability so, in order to make the math work for your employees, it will be necessary to incentivize cleaner commutes until it becomes a habit.

To get started, here are six things you can do right now to encourage more sustainable commuting.

Gamify the commute

By now we’ve all participated in a step challenge or two. While the weather cooperates, help employees form a habit of walking or biking part of the way to work. The winner of the step or pedal challenge could be rewarded with a sustainable gift like a work bag made from recycled materials or a reusable water bottle.

Tout the health benefits of walking and biking

We all need a nudge from time to time to keep up active lifestyles and fit in a workout where we can. With its neutralizing effect on stress, exercise is a great tool to keep your employees happy and healthy. Whether that’s standing desks, encouraging each other to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or hosting wellness activities like a yoga class on-site, opportunity, encouragement and accountability are important for any wellness journey. 

Another way to meet health goals is by walking or biking to work. Remind your team that it’s a great way to clear your mind at the start of the day or to kick off the transition from work back into personal time in the evening.

Subsidize clean commuting

For those putting miles on their walking shoes or bicycle tires, offer stipends for gear, safety equipment, or just fun swag. If employees live outside walking or cycling range, subsidize monthly bus or train passes. Over a three-year period, MIT was able to reduce on-campus parking by 15% by offering free public transportation to work.

Make it easier to transition from an active commute

Providing amenities like secure bike storage, lockers, and shower kits will allow employees to fully embrace the active commute without worrying what they’ll do once with exercise equipment once they get to work. Removing these barriers removes excuses for not making the sustainable choice and also shows your entire organization that you’re committed to going green in every way that you can.

Build in no-commute days

We’ve all enjoyed some aspects of remote work, but we also know that in-person collaboration can be more effective for certain team assignments. One way to take employee cars off the road and ease the transition back into the office is by instituting no commute days where employees have the option to work from home. A study in New Zealand found that after reducing their work schedule to four days per week, employees felt less stressed and more satisfied with their work. It’s a win-win for your team and the environment.

If a car is a must

In some cases, walking, biking, or busing isn’t feasible. If that’s the case for you, and a car is a must, there are still strategies to make your commute more sustainable. For starters, avoid commuting during rush hour. Not only will you be less stressed while in the car, but you’ll spend less time sitting in traffic burning gas and emitting carbon dioxide. Another way to reduce emissions and the number of cars on the road is by carpooling. If no one in your office is going your way, try the Moovit app to connect with other commuters. Finally, next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle, consider one that doesn’t consume fossil fuels. The more gas guzzlers we can retire, the better!

The sustainable commute starts now

With carbon levels at their highest in human history, it’s all hands on deck to audit our lifestyles and cut our carbon emissions. One opportunity that’s presented itself with the return to the office is rethinking how we commute. Greener commutes won’t always be the most convenient option, but if we all commit to sharing the burden of caring for the environment, we’ll find personal positives for ourselves and common benefits for the climate.

How are you thinking about making your return to the office more sustainable? We’d love to hear from you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

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Jeff Gapinski

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