For most Americans, getting to work means getting in a car – alone. Using public transportation instead can help the planet because it is more fuel efficient to move people together than separately. At a recent Green Fair in Springdale, Arkansas, we also learned just how much public transportation can help employees, especially those without a driver’s license or a car who struggle to get to work each day.
The Green Fair C2ES hosted with Alcoa brought people together to share information and opportunities about energy conservation and sustainability-focused groups in the community.
The connection made at the fair between Alcoa and Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) brought to light a critical problem – and a potential solution. Some of Alcoa’s workers rely on friends, co-workers, and family members for a ride to work. That means if their ride is sick or has another obligation, they may be late for work, or may not make it at all. For Alcoa, that can mean reduced productivity and high employee turnover.
To address this problem, Ozark Regional Transit has decided to launch a new bus route and a pilot program offering free passes to Alcoa employees for the next several months. The distinctive blue buses will wind through nearby neighborhoods and go past Alcoa and a number of other manufacturing companies, who will also participate in the pilot project.
If the program, initiated by Tyson Foods, is successful, companies may decide to extend the service or offer reduced fares as an employee benefit.
For employees, companies, and the community, the new service could improve job satisfaction and retention and even open up more employment opportunities. It could also help improve local air quality – cutting the number of idling personal vehicles waiting for workers to finish their shifts.
Carey Webb, HR Manager at Alcoa Kawneer, said, “Partnering with ORT provides a service to employees so they are able to make it to work, save some money, and keep their carbon footprint green.”
Green Fairs show how collaboration can help build a stronger, more sustainable community by:
- Increasing awareness of local businesses and services, such as public transportation, nature parks and farmer’s markets
- Illustrating how to be energy efficient at home to save energy and money
- Exchanging community knowledge about who is doing what to adapt and cope with climate impacts.
“It’s really important for companies to focus their efforts on sustainability,” Webb said. The Green Fair offers, “a great opportunity for our employees to learn about many different organizations and the ‘green’ they can bring into their lives.”
When businesses and their communities collaborate to forge robust and locally-driven solutions to improve sustainability, they can have a big impact on their employees — and make a smaller impact on the environment.