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Green Your Commute

Green Your Commute

If we’ve learned anything from Al Gore, it is that each of us has a responsibility to protect Earth. But can your individual effort amount to much in the face of multinational polluters and doom-and-gloom projections? Sure, it can. 

To get you started, here are some tips for making your work commute more environmentally friendly. 

Work from Home

More than 45 million people telecommute at least once a week, according to the Telework Coalition (TelCoa), the Washington, DC, telecommuting advocacy group. Based on an average roundtrip commute of 30 miles, TelCoa calculates that working from home and dialing it in just one day per week saves you -- and the environment -- 1.5 gallons of gas and 25.7 pounds of pollutants.

At global networking company Sun Microsystems, more than 56 percent of employees telecommute, according to John Featherstone, senior director of the Open Work Services Group. The program is a win-win for the business and the environment, Featherstone says. Open Work, along with Sun’s other commuting alternatives, eliminated more than 29,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions last year.

Use Your Feet

Some workers combine commuting with exercise by biking or walking to work. Ramona Marks is a staff accountant for the Rogers & Cowan PR firm in Los Angeles and bikes 14 miles roundtrip each day. “It’s fun, energizing and a lot better than sitting in traffic,” Marks says. “It takes me the same amount of time to get to work [as] driving, and I don’t have to waste time or money on a gym membership.”

New Belgium Brewing (NBB) in Fort Collins, Colorado, wants all its employees to cycle to work. NBB gives every employee a free bicycle after one year of employment and runs Team Wonderbike to encourage staff to bike to the office at least once a month. “Team Wonderbike is promoting bikes as tools for positive social change," says Chris Winn, NBB’s self-proclaimed event evangelist.

Walking is another alternative -- and not just for people who live around the corner. Many commuters, like Yahoo! chief Java architect Doug Crockford, combine walking with public transit options, including ferries, buses and trains. “I hate automotive commuting,” Crockford says. “So I make choices that allow me to avoid all that, such as finding housing about five miles from work. My current commute is part walking and part light rail. On nice days, I’ll walk the whole way.”

Enjoy the Ride

Yahoo! has an aggressive alternative commuting policy. The most popular is a shuttle program from centralized locations near employees’ homes.

“We estimate that the shuttle program reduced nearly 3 million miles of vehicle travel and saved just under 50,000 gallons of fuel last year,” says Lilia Scott, the company’s commuting supervisor.

If your employer doesn’t offer a shuttle or vanpool service, look into carpooling with neighboring employees, shared-ride opportunities or conventional mass transit.

Green Up Your Drive

But if you just can’t (or won’t) spend a workday without your own wheels, you can still reduce your negative impact on the environment. Here are some fuel-efficiency tips from

  • Keep your tires properly inflated.
  • Avoid rush hour when possible. (See if your company offers flextime.)
  • Keep your car tuned and maintained.
  • Consider biodiesel if your vehicle uses diesel fuel.

Get with the Program

The important thing to remember is that even though saving the environment is a big task, little actions do have an impact.

“I don't think being green has to be an all-or-nothing proposition,” says Adam Gardner, who sings and plays guitar for Guster, a band that uses biodiesel in its tour bus. “Do what you can. If that means simply checking your tire pressure regularly or not idling your car, that's a good start.”

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