Winter Inversions Prompt Innovations
This winter's bad air quality has prompted some Utah companies and agencies to do what they can to reduce air pollution. Recognizing that 57 percent of the air pollution during winter inversion periods comes from automobiles, companies and agencies are looking at alternative transportation strategies with the goal of having fewer cars on the road.
"I applaud Utah companies for taking the initiative to encourage employees to use alternative transportation," said Bryce Bird, director of the Division of Air Quality. "This sets an important example that it will take all of us to improve our air."
The following companies are utilizing alternative transportation strategies that include: carpools/vanpools, bike to work, public transit and teleworking programs:
The Utah arm of the Federal Highway Administration chose to develop a policy to provide employees with the option of teleworking during periods of unhealthy air quality conditions.
Steven Call, program performance team leader, coordinates the effort. He monitors EPA's AirNow website and alerts participants by email when there is unhealthy air quality conditions, meaning the Air Quality Index exceeds 100. (Approximately half of the 17 employees participate in the telework program.)
As an asthmatic, Call understands the intrinsic link between air quality and personal health. "In the final analysis, individual health considerations were a compelling reason for employees to participate in this program," he said. Call participated in the teleworking program 10 times this winter, believing that he can be as productive at home as in the office. He believes that he should do what he can during inversion periods, both as an individual and an employee.
Intermountain Healthcare (Intermountain) just teamed with UDOT's TravelWise program to work together to enhance their alternative transportation program. Intermountain believes that they must be clear in what they hope to achieve and make options as easy as possible in order to have a successful alternative transportation program.
"Intermountain believes that an alternative transportation program is the right thing to do," said Steven Bergstrom, sustainability director. "Whether you view an alternative transportation program from a good business case, it will reduce your expenses; or CSR standpoint, as one of the largest businesses in the community we need to set the example; or from a healthy environment, we need to make sure that we are not causing harm to our communities, customers or patients."
Currently, Intermountain provides discounted UTA passes and exclusive parking for car-pools, hybrid or electric vehicles. At most facilities, bicycle riders are provided bike racks or storage, changing/shower rooms, and lockers. As a part of Intermountain's Healthy Living Program, employees can earn points for prizes for many activities associated with alternative transportation.
At ATK Aerospace Systems, employees can post carpool and vanpool ads on the ATK Intranet. The classified ads are published twice a month and are a free service for any ATK Utah employee. In addition to the classified ad posting, ATK also provides a direct link to UDOT's Commuterlink site on the Intranet. UDOT's Commuterlink includes photos, videos and traffic data to communicate Utah's traffic status to the public to make driving in Utah more efficient, resulting in less air emissions.
Rob Yarosik, Environmental Engineer, takes advantage of the Flex Commuter Benefit by purchasing monthly UTA bus and train passes (UTA) through pre-tax payroll deductions.
"Ultimately, our individual and commuting choices do have an effect on our air quality and our company is committed to making a difference in the air that we breath," oncludes Yarosik. One of the best environmental initiatives that a company or agency can do to significantly reduce its environmental footprint is to provide alternative transportation programs, benefits and incentives to employees. Implementing employee carpools, bike to work, public transit and telework programs all support the goal of having fewer cars on the road.
This article was written by Frances Bernards, business assistance consultant for DEQ