Businesses embrace alternatives to employees’ commute

MIDDLEBURY — This year during the Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) sponsored program “Way to Go,” National Bank of Middlebury employees planned a road trip from Middlebury through the Smoky Mountains to Nashville, Tennessee, visiting the Grand ole Opry concert, Dollywood, and Elvis Presley’s “Graceland” mansion in Memphis.
“Way to Go” is a statewide Vermont commuter challenge that takes place for one week every year and encourages Vermont residents to be economically and environmentally friendly by pursuing alternative means of transportation to driving a personal car. The winner of the challenge is determined by how many miles participants save by walking, riding bikes, riding the bus, or carpooling to work.
The challenge takes place each year in May and is open to any individual, schools, or businesses who wish to participate.
So how would a 1,276 mile road trip from Middlebury to Memphis save commuter miles and help Bank of Middlebury win the challenge?
It wouldn’t. The bank’s Tennessee adventure is a theoretical journey played out on a map in the their office using a cut out car. For every mile that the participants in the challenge save by finding alternate means of getting to work, the cut out car moves closer to its hypothetical vacation destination.
“The employees think it’s really fun,” explained Donna Donahue, a member of the business development department at National Bank of Middlebury and the organizer of the Tennessee journey.
Donahue said that last year, the bank’s road trip “destination” was New York City, only 300 miles away from Middlebury. When they exceeded that goal drastically by saving 1,000 miles, they decided to set their sights higher for this year’s challenge.
National Bank of Middlebury surpassed their own expectations once again in this year’s competition. The bank more than doubled its goal of saving 1,276 miles, with a final figure at approximately 2,800 commuter miles saved. This achievement won them the medium-sized business “Way to Go” award state-wide.
The road trip map isn’t the only thing that helped get Bank of Middlebury employees enthusiastic about saving miles during the commuter challenge.
“National studies show that employees are eight times more likely to try an alternative to commuting by single occupancy vehicle when employers provide incentives,” said Nadine Barnicle, Community Relations Manager at ACTR.
Donahue said that all participants were entered in a drawing to win extra time off from work, thus providing motivation for employees to join in the challenge. They also held a kick-off breakfast at the beginning of the week, and gave out bagels to participants throughout the competition.
“The bank is big on energy conservation and reduction of emissions,” said Donahue, explaining why so much effort was put into getting bank employees excited about the challenge.
“‘Way to Go’ is a great program to make people aware that there are other ways to get to work,” she added.
According to Donahue, 67 employees at National Bank of Middlebury were involved in “Way to Go” this year, out of around 97 total full and part-time employees.
She said there were two people in particular who deserved to be mentioned for saving 800 miles between them; Chris Carpenter and Blessing Chimwanda who both live in Rutland and found alternate means of transportation into Middlebury for the entire week.
According to ACTR, 219 Addison county residents signed up for the Way to Go challenge this year. At the end of the week, these residents had saved 16,924 miles by biking, walking, and carpooling to work; a distance that amounts to 8 tons of carbon prevented from entering the atmosphere. Additionally, the number of riders on ACTR buses was 16.5% higher during the “Way to Go” challenge week than usual.
For ACTR, the challenge week illustrates the importance of using public transportation systems. Not only does taking the bus save carbon emissions, but it also saves money. ACTR’s website says that owning and operating a car in Vermont costs $7,000 per year, but riding the bus with a $30 per month bus pass for a year comes to a total of only $360.
Another notable Addison County business in the “Way to Go” challenge was Middlebury College, winning honorable mention in the Major Businesses category (Green Mountain Coffee Roasters won the category state-wide).
National Bank of Middlebury and Middlebury College received their awards from Governor Jim Douglas on June 18 at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. In the spirit of environmental conservation, Grover Utison and Donna Donahue from the bank carpooled to the award ceremony with Clare Crosby from the college.
ACTR said that National Bank of Middlebury’s success in this year’s challenge should be an inspiration to other employers in the area to step up their efforts next year, and all year round.

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