Saturday, October 8, 2011

Low-impact commuters score 'Carbon Cup' awards

Winners in the seventh annual “Way to Go!” commuter challenge received chrome-plated car mufflers as trophies Friday in Burlington City Hall and the rest of the state benefitted from a week of cleaner air and less congested streets.
The mid-May competition also shaved about $90,000 from motorists’ gasoline budgets, said Bryan Davis, transportation planner with Winooski-based Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

Although modest compared to the state’s approximately $1 billion per year appetite for engine fuel, Bryan praised the seven-day contribution as a valuable “snapshot” of the economic impact of replacing single-car commutes with pooled rides, buses, biking and walking.

“Most of what we spend on gas leaves the state,” he said.

Montpelier, which won top municipal honors, did not send a delegation to collect its muffler. Vergennes took second place.

Burlington tied for third with Waitsfield, and Mayor Bob Kiss accepted a certificate honoring the Queen City’s high degree of municipal participation.

“We are making progress. Are we making enough? Maybe not. Are we on the right track? Absolutely,” the mayor said.

“I’m convinced we’re changing the world,” Kiss said. “It won’t happen tomorrow, but we’re tipping it today.”
The competition appears to have sparked ongoing efforts — and rivalries — for low-carbon rides and bragging rights. Organizer Tom Horn, a transportation planner with Burlington-based Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, cautioned this year’s winners against complacency.

Rachel Gitajn, a project engineer at Burton Snowboards, didn’t need to be reminded: this year the company lost its three-year winning streak to

“We’re disappointed that we lost, but we take credit for it, too. We told them all our tips and tricks. We all upped the ante,” Gitajn said.

Small-business category Carbon Cup winner Williston-based AllEarth Renewables has a built-in advantage with mission-driven employees, CEO David Blittersdorf said.

But top honors came via “carrots and sticks” in the workplace, he added.

Every employee who commutes by bus or another low-emission conveyance receives a $500 incentive.

“Basically, employees get free transportation by taking the bus,” Blittersdorf said.

And his “stick?” He’s planning to charge for parking spaces in the company lot.

“We have to move people to do different things,” he said.

Phelan Fretz, executive director of previous winner ECHO Center in Burlington, gracefully acknowledged All-Earth’s edge.

“We’re going to have to step up our game,” he said.

Information on how to prepare for next year’s Way to Go! challenge — and statistics on this year’s participation — can be found 

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter

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