How to measure your environmental impact at work: Commuting

By Krista Van Tassel
January 30th, 2013

Sadie-MillerLast month we introduced you to Sadie Miller from True Impact and her amazing work to create a Green Team ROI Tracker that our Wells Fargo teams are currently putting to use. We are thrilled to introduce Sadie again as part of an on-going series designed to provide step-by-step instructions for measuring Green Team initiatives. Sadie works at True Impact, where she is responsible for the implementation of the Volunteer and Green Team ROI Tracker measurement and benchmarking initiatives. She brings expertise in civic engagement and policy analysis to her work on social impact evaluation. Sadie earned an MPP in social policy from Brandeis University and a BA in sociology from Smith College. This is our second a series of posts designed to help Green Teams and Environmental Forum blog readers better track and measure their eco impact at the office.  (–KVT) 

Commuting can be one of the most impactful ways to engage team members and help reduce your company’s overall environmental footprint. Green Teams often help lead commuting initiatives by developing education programs around public transit, forming bike teams, or even helping to develop carpool matching sites. Today we’ll walk through some “greener” commute program ideas for Green Teams and help you understand how to best track your environmental impact.

Most employee-led commuting programs focus on one of three initiatives:

1. Carpooling
Carpooling is a social good- it reduces pollution, traffic congestion, builds relationships, and saves money. And for every gallon of gas you save through commuting, you also prevent the emission of more than 19 pounds of carbon dioxide. (source:
EPA)

2. Alternative transportation
Many employers offer reduced bus and train passes and tax sheltered transit funds. Biking and walking to the office also make for an environmentally mindful commute. In addition to bicycling commuter programs (like the Wells Fargo bike teams), LEED-certified office buildings include showers and bike storage to incentivize bike commuting.

3. Telecommuting
According to the nonprofit Telework Coalition, if the If the 41 million Americans with telework-compatible jobs worked from home once a week, we would save 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas, the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year.

Once you’ve identified your various programs, work with HR and engage your Green Team to collect data through one of the recommended methods below.

Option 1: Reward and measure

Take advantage of annual employee benefits enrollment to gather the environmental impact of commuting programs. In collaboration with Human Resources, determine the number of new employees taking advantage of alternative transportation incentives – bus and train pass discounts, commuter sign-ups, and health-related biking benefits. Better yet, integrate simple questions about commute length into benefit enrollment forms, so data collection is continuous and embedded in program administration.

Option 2: 60 second surveys

If administrative data is unavailable, or if you have access to alternative commute participants, send out them shortest survey in the world. Don’t worry about gathering data from 100% of participants – a sample will provide enough data to estimate the carbon reduction using participant averages. Email participants a 3-question, 60-second survey with the following questions:

Environmental Initiative

Questions to ask

Data to collect

Carpooling

How many people do you carpool with?

How many miles is your commute (one-way)?

How many days per week do you carpool?

Average number of employees per carpool

Average one-way distance to work

Average number of days per week

Alternative transportation

What alternative transportation do you take to work?

How many miles is your commute?

How many days per week do you use alternative transportation to commute to work

Average one-way distance to work

Average number of days per week

Telecommuting

How many miles is your commute to work when you do not telecommute?

How many days do you telecommute?

Average one-way distance to work

Average number of days per week

Now that you have your sample data, you can calculate your environmental impact.

Option 1: Manual calculations

Once you collect the above data from your employees, simple arithmetic generates your commuting initiative’s CO2 reductions. The sustainability firm Strategic Sustainability Consulting has a fantastic white paper, Reducing Your Organization’s Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions, which calculates the carbon impact of workplace commuting. You can access the carbon calculations to estimate the impact of your alternative commuting initiative at the Green Team ROI Tracker sources page, or use the table below:

Carpooling programs

CO2 produced through carpooling annually:

(# employees/# employees in a carpool )*(one-way trip * 2 * number of carpool days per week X 50 weeks/year)

(0.7095 lbs. CO2 *0.000453592 lbs./metric ton)/mile 

C02 previously produced by carpoolers driving single occupancy cars:

# employees* (one-way trip * 2 * number of carpool days per week X 50 weeks/year 

(0.7095 lbs. CO2 *0.000453592 lbs./metric ton)/mile 

CO2 reduced through carpooling program annually:

(Single occupancy CO2 produced) – (carpool CO2 produced)

Fewer miles driven through carpooling annually:

# employees * (one-way trip * 2 * number of carpool days per week X 50 weeks/year)  /# employees in a carpool

Dollar savings through carpooling:

20.4 miles/gallon * $3.52/gallon * miles not driven

Subway/light rail

CO2 produced through traveling by subway/light rail annually:

(# employees) * (one-way trip * 2 * number of train days per week * 50 weeks/year )
(0.5282 lbs.  CO2 / 2204.62 pounds/metric ton )/mile 

C02 previously produced by train riders driving single occupancy cars:

# employees (one-way trip * 2 * number of train days per week X 50 weeks/year)
(0.7095 lbs. CO2 / 2204.62 pounds/metric ton )/mile 

CO2 reduced through subway/light rail travel annually:

CO2 produced by car – CO2 produced by train

Single occupancy car miles replaced with subway/light rail travel: 

(# employees) * (one-way trip * 2 * number of train days per week * 50 weeks/year)

Dollar savings in gasoline from subway/light rail travel: 

20.4 miles/gallon * $3.52/gallon * miles not driven

Bus

CO2 produced through traveling by bus annually:

(# employees) * (one-way trip * 2 * number of bus days per week * 50 weeks/year )

0.2994 lbs.  CO2  / 2204.62 lbs./metric ton)/mile 

C02 previously produced by bus riders driving single occupancy cars:

# employees (one-way trip * 2 * number of bus days per week X 50 weeks/year 
(0.7095 lbs. CO2  / 2204.62 lbs./metric ton)/mile 

CO2 reduced through bus travel:

CO2 produced by car – CO2 produced by bus

Single occupancy car miles replaced with bus travel annually:

(# employees) * (one-way trip * 2 * number of bus days per week * 50 weeks/year )

Dollar savings in gasoline from bus travel:

20.4 miles/gallon * $3.52/gallon * miles not driven

Bike commuting

C02 previously produced by cyclists driving single occupancy cars:

# employees (one-way trip * 2 * number of bike days per week X 50 weeks/year )
(0.7095 lbs. CO2 / 2204.62 lbs./metric ton)/mile  

Single occupancy car miles replaced with bike commuting annually:

(# employees) * (one-way trip * 2 * number of bike days per week * 50 weeks/year )

Dollar savings in gasoline from bike commuting:

20.4 miles/gallon * $3.52/gallon * miles not driven

Telecommuting

C02 previously produced by telecommuters driving single occupancy cars:

# employees (one-way trip * 2 * number of carpool days per week X 50 weeks/year )
(0.7095 lbs. CO2  / 2204.62 lbs./metric ton)/mile 

Single occupancy car miles eliminated from telecommuting annually:

# employees (one-way trip * 2 * number of carpool days per week X 50 weeks/year )

Dollar savings in gasoline from telecommuting:

20.4 miles/gallon * $3.52/gallon * miles not driven

 

Option 2: The Green Team ROI Calculator

Many carbon calculators are designed for household use or small business use (you can find excellent household and business calculators here, here, and here). However, employee-led green team programs are not served by either of these measurement lenses. We hope the Green Team ROI Calculator will help fill the carbon calculator gap for your employee environmental initiatives.

Hopefully this post has inspired you to promote commute programs (and calculate their impact) at your office. If so, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us about some of the projects you’ve implemented or share a new idea to collect data or calculate impact.

Tags:   employee   transportation   
Krista Van Tassel

Krista Van Tassel

As Community and Team Member Engagement manager for Wells Fargo’s Environmental Affairs Team, Krista supports the company’s 70+ Green Teams, recognizing and promoting environmental innovator best practices, and engaging and educating team members about their role in helping the company’s sustainability efforts. She also manages Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities’ $3 million annual nonprofit grant program focused on helping make long-term sustainable economic investments in local communities where its customers and 264,000 team members work and live. Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2009, Krista worked in a variety of sustainability and marketing positions in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. Krista earned her MBA in International Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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