The Sustainable Office – Part 4: Commuting

There are so many reasons to make your commute to work more sustainable, and there are just as many ways to achieve a greener commute. On top of reducing your impact on the environment, greening your commute by walking, cycling, using public transit, or any other method can get you in better shape, save you time and stress, give you time to read or chat, and save you money.

I, for instance, walk to work every day. It’s about 1.6km (1 mile), and it only takes 15-20 minutes. If I am running late, I just hop on a bike and pedal my way to work. It gives me time to relax, enjoy my surroundings, and listen to music before and after each workday. It also gets me a little exercise, which gets the endorphins flowing and helps me work off the entire wheel of cheese I inevitably eat each night.

Living in Paris, using public transportation or walking makes the most sense for me. But no matter what your situation, whether you live in Los Angeles or in a small town, whether your commute is .25 miles or 25 miles, greening your commute can make your workday more enjoyable and save you money. Here are some commuting alternatives:

1. Walk/Cycle

Walking costs next to nothing–all you need are comfortable shoes. Cycling is pretty cheap too–there’s just the initial cost of the bike and little tune ups after that. Combine with these low costs the money you save on gasoline, car maintenance, and the reduced health care costs in the long run due to the exercise you get and I think we have a winner here.

Walking and cycling each day will reduce your blood pressure, improve digestion, and strengthen your bones. You can choose to take the scenic route to work to get more exercise and improve your mental health.

Walking is a good option for those who have commutes of 3km (about 2 miles) or less. Cycling is great for commutes of 5km (3 miles) or even more. In many cases, cycling is actually faster than driving due to avoided traffic and the versatility of the routes you can take.

2. Use public transportation

Public transportation allows you to let someone else deal with the stress of traffic while you just sit there and sleep, read, or chat with your neighbor. Taking the bus, tram, subway, or monorail if you happen to work at Disneyland or live in Springfield is an easy way to reduce the emissions from your commute and you help reduce traffic by taking your vehicle off the road.

Using public transportation will save you money and, in many cases, time. All you have to pay for is the annual pass. In many large cities, using the subway or bus system is much faster than driving in traffic and struggling to find a parking place.

While the availability of public transport differs from area to area, there is almost always a system that can be of use to you. If you have a long commute, check out the local rail system. The Bay Area has Caltrain, which allows people to move up and down the southern peninsula quickly and easily. Even in the relatively rural area where I grew up, there was a bus system that made a few stops in each town near us. In Paris, it is faster and more convenient in almost every situation to use the metro, buses, or public bike system than it is to drive.

3. Carpool

Carpooling is ideal for those who work in the same area as their neighbors or who live near colleagues. It makes the most sense for people with longer commutes who have no transportation options besides driving. Carpooling saves everyone money because you get to split the cost of gas and parking several ways, and you also save emissions by reducing the number of cars on the road. If you drive carefully (accelerate slowly, brake slowly, etc.) you can save even more emissions. It may not be faster than just driving yourself, but you do get an opportunity to relax, read, and get to know people better.

4. Buy a hybrid car

If you are going to carpool, why not buy a hybrid car? It may not be the cheapest option, but if you feel you must commute by car it certainly saves a lot of emissions. Because hybrid cars consume less gas, it may eventually save you money in the long run too.

5. Telecommute

Telecommuting is the best way to save emissions, time, energy, and money in terms of transportation to work. Telecommuting means that you work from home or some other location that is not your office, so you are able to avoid commuting altogether. Thanks to the internet and the 8 million ways to communicate with people these days, working from home is much easier and viable than ever before. Telecommuting can reduce stress by allowing you to have flexible work hours, avoiding rush hour traffic, and working in a more comfortable environment.

How does this relate to employers?

You can encourage green commuting by creating incentives for carpools, covering part of the cost of public transportation for your employees, or providing bike racks, electric car charging stations, and showers at work. Encouraging green commuting among your employees can build camaraderie, increase health and wellness, and lead to happier and more productive employees. Additionally, your organizations carbon footprint will be drastically reduced. While it may cost you money, the intangible returns on this investment can be great.

See these sources for more information: