Commuting to work without driving, meeting with someone on another continent without flying and riding cars without gasoline? It’s not a futuristic dream, but a way of life at Google. We support and encourage carbon-free commuting because it’s a vital part of our longstanding commitment to sustainability.
We help take cars off of the road—not quite like the Hulk, but we are green. Back in 2004, one motivated Googler started a vanpool that ran from San Francisco to Mountain View as a 20 percent project. As demand grew, the program morphed into what is now one of the largest corporate shuttle services in the country. Today, up to a third of employees ride the GBus shuttles throughout our Bay Area offices five days a week—that’s more than 3,500 daily riders, or 7,000 one-way car trips avoided each day.
Beyond the convenience and comfort that our shuttle rides offer—of which I’m reminded during my daily 35-mile commute from Alameda to Mountain View—they’re also environmentally friendly. Our shuttles have the cleanest diesel engines ever built and run on 5 percent bio-diesel, so they’re partly powered by renewable resources that help reduce our carbon footprint. In fact, we’re the first and largest company with a corporate transportation fleet using engines that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emission standards.
Not only do we encourage self-powered commuting, we reward it. Googlers earn credits each time they get to work via alternative (non-engine) means—by bike, foot, skateboard or kayak. These credits are then translated into a dollar amount that gets donated—up to about $140 every 3 months—to the Googler’s charity of choice. This year, 56 offices also participated in “Bike to Work Day,” with more than 2,500 Googlers who biked to work worldwide. The annual celebration is meant to reward daily cyclists as well as introduce many new riders to biking.
The green life doesn’t stop once Googlers get to work. In Mountain View, our GBike system distributes about 1,000 bikes across the campus that Googlers can pick up whenever they have to get to another building. For longer distances and off-campus trips, we have the GFleet, our electric vehicle car share program, and our on-campus taxi service GRide. We're also installing hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations throughout several of our offices, making it easy for Googlers to charge up their own electric cars for free at work. If Googlers need to chat with their colleagues in other cities or continents they can use video conferencing technology, which cuts down on potential air travel.
In total, the combination of the GFleet and our shuttles result in net annual savings of more than 5,400 metric tons of CO2. That's like taking over 2,000 cars off the road every day, or avoiding 14 million vehicle miles every year. With the help of Googlers, we’ll continue powering the wheels of sustainable transit innovation.
UPDATE: 09/11/11 18:30: Corrected amount Googlers can donate to a charity of choice through the self-powered commute program from '$100 for every 20 days of participation' to '~$140 every 3 months'.
The Gulf region may be experiencing declines in employment and suffering under the weight of environmental degradation as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in 2010, but the prospect of recovery seems closer than it has in a long time with the introduction of the bipartisan coalition-sponsored RESTORE Act. If properly structured, this act could have a major positive impact on the green jobs sector in the region, benefiting the local citizens through sustainable employment and environmental restoration.
The RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act is legislation that aims to direct penalties paid by BP and others involved in the oil disaster to programs that will direct the communities and local environment specifically. The idea of using these funds for cleaning up the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf Coast is strongly supported by Americans (83% nationwide).
“The damage from the oil spill was done in the Gulf, so Congress should ensure that oil spill fines go to the Gulf, not to unrelated federal spending,” reads a joint statement issued by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America. “This Gulf state agreement paves the way for Congress to do what voters expect: hold the parties responsible for the Gulf oil disaster accountable for restoring the Gulf because our nation’s economy depends on a healthy Gulf region.”
Let’s hope they choose to funnel the money to long-term, sustainable green jobs that benefit the communities for many years to come. Express your support for the bill by telling your politicians that you want to create green jobs with oil spill money.
Image Via Flickr: Editor B
Health and Safety Best Practice with your Solar Panels-
Since they became something homeowners and environmentalists could install around their own properties, solar panels have proved incredibly popular. But whether you want them to save money or save the planet, it is important to have things like safety signs around to protect others.
Solar panels aren’t cheap, so if you do happen to be investing in them and are not confident of your own DIY skills, it may be advisable to contact a professional. The complexity of the installation will depend entirely on the make, model, size and position you choose – so think very carefully about whether or not it is something you will be happy doing on your own.
If you do decide to take on the project yourself, it is best to be prepared. Even if you are only installing compact solar panels, it is likely to be a messy task and will require electrical equipment and tools. Therefore, warning or hazard signs might be useful while you are doing the job. Of course, this is something to consider whenever you tackle a home improvement project – especially if yours is a family home where inquisitive hands are likely to be around.
When you start the installation process, try to do some research to help you understand roughly how your solar panels or system is going to work. If you don’t have at least some knowledge of the reasons why you are drilling holes and stringing cables up all over the outside and inside of your home, you are more likely to come unstuck – or worse still, damage the equipment itself before you’ve even had chance to enjoy its benefits.
If all of this sounds too complex, rethink the possibility of employing a professional. You’ll want to figure out whether the panels are to be flush against the roof of your property or tilted up, as well as whether they need individual panel mounts. This is all information that a qualified person will be able to help you with – so don’t hesitate to contact one if you find yourself scratching your head! Regardless of who ends up putting them in though, make sure you fit trip hazard signs where necessary to make sure people are a aware they are there.
Solar panels can be a great addition to your home and, in the long term, could help you save money on your energy bills. Installing them properly will help you make the most out of them too and reduces the risk that they will need attention or replacement later on.