The Benefits of Telecommuting

It’s January, and Old Man Winter has a tight grip on the St. Louis region. If the cold temperatures and threat of snow and ice have you wishing you could hunker down and work from home, you’re not alone. In fact, many individuals are enjoying the many benefits of telecommuting – both during the cold weather months and year-round. Telecommuting is a convenient way to reduce or eliminate the work commute, taking cars off the road and reducing the vehicle emissions that lead to air pollution.

Current statistics indicate that nearly 85 percent of American office employees work from home more than once a month, and almost 25 of employees telecommute weekly. In addition, more than 40 percent of U.S companies have implemented some type of telecommuting policy.

If you’re one of the many individuals that have the ability to telecommute, then you already know that working from home is a great way to stay productive when icy roads make it impossible to get to the office. It also removes cars from the roads, along with the related air pollution. But, there are host of additional benefits that make telecommuting a win-win for employees and employers alike. These include:

Increased productivity: Many believe that giving employees the ability to work from home will mean that they will work less. However, studies show that telecommuting actually has the potential to increase productivity. Specifically, a study from the University of Texas at Austin, showed that telecommuters accomplished 5-7 more hours of work than their counterparts who worked in the office.

Less employee turnover: Long commutes can result in unhappy employees and higher turnover for companies. Research has shown that the ability to telecommute results in more satisfied employees who remain in their positions much longer than those who are required to work in the office each day.

Improved morale: Telecommuting helps to promote a better work/life balance, resulting in employees that are happier, feel more valued, work harder and are more invested in the companies they work for.

Money savings: Working from home cuts employees’ commuting costs, while also saving employers money. Estimates indicate that a company saves $11,000 annually for each employee who telecommutes.

For more information on telecommuting and other alternative commuting options, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

Back to school tips for cleaner air

With the summer season over, children across the region are now settling into their back-to-school routines. If you’re one of the many parents who drive their children to school each day, now is a great time to consider other transportation options that can help reduce the emissions that lead to air pollution, while also helping to improve lung health across the St. Louis area.

The following tips can help make the school commute a more air quality-friendly one:

Walk or bike to class: For kids that live close to school, walking and biking are great commuting options that also offer an opportunity to get some exercise, whenever weather and air quality conditions are favorable.

Encourage the kids to ride the bus: For those who live near a school bus route, the bus can offer an eco-friendly way to get to class, especially as more districts purchase lower pollution buses.

Share the ride to school: If driving to school is the only option for getting there, work with neighbors to organize carpools to reduce emissions and also help parents and students save money on gas.

• Avoid unnecessary idling: Idling engines produce toxic pollution that is known to cause serious health concerns. Exposure to car exhaust can also aggravate asthma symptoms. And with asthma ranking as the most common chronic illness in children, vehicle idling can be especially harmful to kids. When dropping the kids off, avoid idling parking lots, bus and carpool lanes and delivery areas.

At back to school time, and year-round, parents and kids can access a wealth of air quality information and tips to help them do their share for cleaner air on the Clean Air Partnership website. Additional air quality tips and information can also be found on our Facebook page and on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

Your clean-running vehicle helps clear the air

For most people, your car is your most valuable possession. Your vehicle helps you pay the bills by getting you to and from work. It’s reliable. It’s convenient.

But, it can also be an air pollution nightmare.

Vehicular traffic is the leading source of air pollution in most U.S. cities, shutterstock_234239257according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although you may not be able to see it, your car’s tailpipe pumps out pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.
Hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen react on hot, sunny days to form ground-level ozone. During the summer, high levels of ground-level ozone make it difficult for many people to breathe.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a variety of steps you can take to make sure your car isn’t a pollution machine.

Maintain your vehicle on a regular basis.

When a vehicle is not properly maintained, its pollution control devices will eventually fail, causing increased emissions. To avoid releasing excessive emissions into the air, follow the recommended maintenance schedule listed in your owner’s manual. Preventative maintenance tips are also available through the Gateway Clean Air Program.

Is your “check engine” or “service engine soon” light on? Responding quickly to this malfunction indicator light can save you money! The light notifies you when something in the engine management or emissions control system has failed or deteriorated. Early diagnosis and repair can prevent more costly repairs, such as replacing a catalytic converter. Responding to the malfunction light in a timely manner will prevent excess vehicle emissions, which improves overall air quality in the region.

Think fuel efficiency.

The less fuel you burn, the less pollution comes out of your tailpipe. Over time, a fuel-efficient vehicle will save you money in refueling costs. When shopping for a new vehicle, compare the gas mileage ratings of several vehicles. More information is available on the EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/autoemissions/.

If your current car is a gas-guzzler, there are ways to improve its gas mileage. Remove unnecessary weight from your vehicle – leave the golf clubs in the garage; take the bag of sand out of the bed of your truck as soon as the ice disappears. Accelerate slowly, and drive at a steady speed. You can improve your gas mileage about 15 percent by driving at 55 mph rather than 65 mph. Reduced gas mileage is an indication that something might be wrong with your vehicle. Take it to a repair shop for diagnosis and repair.

Clearing the Air on Your Way To Work

Did you know that spending an extra 10 minutes sitting in traffic during your commute can quickly adds up to 84 hours in the car per year! Traffic is wearisome, not only for you but for your health. Fumes from car exhaust, which mixes with heat and sunlight to form ground-level ozone, makes it difficult for us all to breathe. However, you can help clear the air in our region this summer by not driving in your car alone during rush hour traffic. Impossible, you think? Here are some commute ideas for you to consider.

The first option is to consider an alternate mode of transportation to work. The MetroBus and MetroLink have routes that cover St. Louis on both sides of the river, and you can log onto www.metrostlouis.org to find a schedule and route near you. Services are available for Madison County, Ill. residents from Madison County Transit at www.mct.org. In addition, Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) offers opportunities to register your home and work addresses online via its website at www.cmt-stl.org and receive a personalized transit route from home to work, the schedules and service times for your commute.

If transit isn’t an option,try carpooling to work—it’s as easy as calling Ridefinders at 1-800-VIP-RIDE or visiting www.ridefinders.org. shutterstock_167833427Carpooling saves miles and wear on your car, and gives you someone to talk to during those long daily commutes. RideFinders can match you up with a list of potential carpoolers that both live and work near you.

An added benefit of transit and carpooling is the Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH), an incentive that provides a limited number of subsidized cab rides in case of an unexpected emergency. Both CMT and Ridefinders offer the GRH for those who use transit and carpool and vanpool.

Other programs, such as flextime and a compressed work week, may also be available through some employers. Flextime changes the hours of an employee’s workday. For example, instead of working the typical 8 am to 5 pm shift, employees flex their schedule to work 6 am to 3 pm, 10 am to 7 pm, or any other combination the employer agrees upon. A compressed work week changes the hours of your day into longer shifts, working 10 hours a day four days a week, allowing you to avoid rush hour traffic and giving you one extra day off every week!

Choosing any of these options makes sense in many ways— it saves you time and money, and, since your car is idling less in traffic, it is polluting less and helping to reduce the thousands of pounds of pollution our cars create EVERY DAY. Clean air is everyone’s responsibility; so set a good example for others by taking action and try a more environmentally friendly commute.