Saving energy and promoting sustainability are the core philosophies underlying all of our client project work at Cx Associates. This strong shared belief in sustainability is part of our company’s culture. So about 18 months ago, we began brainstorming about other areas where we could extend this philosophy in our company beyond actual project work. One of the first things that came to mind was commuting, and we began to consider how we could encourage our employees to use the most environmentally-friendly means available for their commute back and forth to our office in downtown Burlington, Vermont.
Through an inclusive group process, Cx Associates created a Green Incentives program that focuses on commuting and ways to encourage a green commute. The program includes the following incentives:
- Free bus tickets and passes. Vermont is a largely rural, sparsely populated state, but despite that we’re lucky enough to have a great public transit system which serves both local communities near Burlington as well as some of the large population centers farther afield such as Montpelier and St. Albans. A natural first place to start was to encourage the use of public transit by offering to pay for employees’ bus fares. The Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) offers the Smart Business Program through which employers can purchase bus passes for their employees. Businesses have the option of having employees share the cost of the passes; if costs are shared, it can be done through a pre-tax payroll deduction which also lowers the business’ payroll taxes. As an additional benefit Smart Business members are enrolled in the CCTA’s SureRide program which reimburses employees who may need an emergency ride home outside of regular transit hours.
- Pay to Park. Cx Associates decided early on in the process that as a company, we no longer wished to subsidize employees driving singly-occupied vehicles to work. We also recognized that not everyone lives near a bus route or close enough to walk or bike to work. Therefore, we changed our policy of covering the cost of providing free parking spaces to our employees to requiring that they pay for the cost of using a CxA spot, or for finding their own parking in Burlington. At the same time, we assist with helping employees find car pools to join and other options for getting to work.
- Car Sharing. Part of our work requires us to travel to project sites all around the region. After learning more about the local non-profit CarShare Vermont, we decided that it made more sense to use CarShare Vermont’s vehicles for medium and longer-length trips rather than reimbursing employees for mileage driven in their own cars, and we became a CarShare Vermont Business Member. For example, if an employee needs to travel to Boston and will stay for one night, it would cost roughly $240 just for mileage at the federal mileage rate of $0.555 per mile. The same trip using CarShare Vermont would cost approximately $100 less. In addition, to encourage employees to engage in car sharing, Cx Associates also pays for each employee’s personal CarShare Vermont membership. The benefits of car sharing are numerous – from helping people to become less car-dependent, to reducing costs, to decreasing emissions.
- Don’t Forget the Cyclists and Walkers! A couple of our employees live close enough to work that they can either walk or bike to work on a daily basis. We didn’t want to leave them out of the Green Incentives program. To support them getting to work under their own power, Cx Associates provides a $200 gift certificate to a local sporting goods shop. They can use this gift certificate for anything they like, including getting their bike tuned up, or buying new walking shoes to keep their feet comfortable during their commute.
- Supporting an Active Lifestyle. Most of us sit entirely too much and do not get enough exercise on a daily basis. To encourage employees to lead more active, healthy lives, while at the same time supporting even greener methods of commuting, we reward employees who occasionally switch to pedal or foot power to get to work. For employees who usually drive or take the bus to work, Cx Associates provides a gift certificate to a local restaurant for every 50 miles cycled or 25 miles walked as part of their commute.
- Maximizing Vehicle Efficiency. Let’s face it, most people who live in Vermont own a vehicle, and depending on where you live, it would be very difficult to get by without one. In fact, Vermont’s car ownership rates are higher than the U.S. average. To encourage employees to keep their vehicles running as efficiently as possible Cx Associates offers up to $75 towards the cost towards one of the following: on-board diagnostic devices that display real time mileage, a set of summer tires which increase mileage, the cost to change from winter to summer tires, or to have their vehicle’s tires filled with nitrogen.
Offering these incentives not only encourages greener ways to commute, but also illustrates to current and prospective Cx Associates’ employees and clients that we walk the walk when it comes to energy efficiency. In addition, our Green Incentives program is another added benefit that Cx Associates can use to attract and retain talented, committed employees. It's a green win-win all around.