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Way to Go! Cuts Carbon Among Vermont Commuters

Way to Go! Cuts Carbon Among Vermont Commuters

Posted on July 08, 2013

Despite being small in size and population, Vermont rides near the top (6th in 2009) for miles driven annually per resident (full list in Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan). According to the CEP, nearly half of Vermonters’ carbon emissions (47 %) are from transportation, with three quarters of that amount coming from the tailpipes of gasoline-powered vehicles. These figures point to something those of us living here already know anecdotally: You can’t get there from here (read: we drive a lot). Our beautiful pastoral landscape and low-density residential living comes with a drawback – many of us drive more than the average American to get to work, school, groceries, or play.  

Carbon emissions are not the only pollutant to measure from transportation: Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants all have toxic effects on human health and the environment. No doubt, there are plenty of reasons to reconsider our transportation patterns in Vermont. Opportunities to reduce our transportation footprint include careful consideration of land use and development patterns, improved vehicle efficiency, alternatively-fueled vehicles like electric and biodiesel cars, and programs that promote alternative means of transportation, like buses, carpooling, cycling, walking, and telecommuting, among others.

Way to Go! is one such program raising awareness in Vermont of transportation options among commuters by encouraging them to travel in ways other than driving alone. Participants pledge to take the bus, bike, walk, carpool, car share, or telecommute during the week of the challenge. The businesses that are most successful at encouraging their employees to sign up are awarded with a decorated muffler trophy as recognition of their commitment to their environment – and their staff members’ health.

vsjf award at statehouseIn 2013, the Way to Go! winning participants with the greatest levels of participation and highest reductions in carbon emissions were:
•    Large businesses (100+ employees): The Student Conservation Association (Runner-up: Burton Snowboards)
•    Medium Businesses (20-99 employees): AllEarth Renewables (Runner-up: Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center)
•    Small Businesses (1-19 employees): Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund  

An award was also given for greatest participation in the ZimRide Challenge, a carpool matching system, to Fletcher Allen Health Care. The City of Burlington won the Community Challenge with the highest rate of resident participation and Waitsfield Elementary won the School Challenge (Runner-up: Moretown School).

Together, more than 200 businesses and 13 schools participated in Way to Go! in 2013, equaling less than 1% of the population, to cut carbon emissions during this year’s challenge by more than 266,000 pounds (133 tons). At this same level of participation throughout the full year, Vermont could cut carbon emissions from gasoline vehicles by 6,916 tons annually, and imagine what would be possible if participation were increased to even 5 or 10 percent of the population!

Visit Way to Go! for more information on alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle travel.