Spare the Air Employer Program Improves Air Quality, Cuts Costs

An estimated 2,000 employers have partnered with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to reduce air pollution, congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions by joining the free Spare the Air Employer Program. This program helps Bay Area employers educate employees about alternatives to driving to work alone and provide a host of employer resources including a step-by-step guide to starting a commute program and free Spare the Air marketing toolkits.

The Spare the Air Employer Program website includes guides on how best to survey your employees regarding their commute options, choose commute solutions that work for your employees and worksite location, information on the benefits of the program for employees and employers, and the Ultimate Commute Program Resource. The Ultimate Commute Program Resource lists guides, vendors, and information on biking, carpooling, commuter benefits, guaranteed ride home services, shuttles, transit, and more for all nine Bay Area counties, including Alameda and Contra Costa.

"Once your company becomes an Employer Program member, you will have access to experts who can quickly point you in the right direction to answer your commute program questions, invitations to events and peer-to-peer networking sessions with other employers, and more," according to Bay Area Air Quality officials.

Employers Benefit When Employees Benefit

Pleasanton members of the Spare the Air Employer Program include the City of Pleasanton and three companies at Hacienda: Bregante + Company LLP, Medtronic, and the Hacienda Owners Association itself. Alameda County is also an active member.

"Alameda County's Clean Commute Program is one of the core strategies to meet our Climate Action Plan and engage our employees about sustainable choices," according to Phillip Kobernick, Sustainability Project Manager for the County of Alameda, who helps manage some 9,500 employees who commute to multiple facilities. "The Spare the Air Employer Program has supported our efforts to encourage employees to carpool to work. Carpooling is an easy clean air commute option that saves employees time and money, and helps Spare the Air."

According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, "employers often see a direct link between employee commute behavior and the impact on attendance and turnover-two potentially high costs of doing business. At the same time, some employers are discovering that providing commute alternative programs can help reduce out-of-pocket costs for big-ticket items like real estate for parking.

Employers who help their employees save money, reduce stress, and save time on their commute trips also enjoy improved employee morale and help the company bottom line, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The bottom-line benefits may include higher employee retention among employees who trade driving alone for another commute option and fewer sick days among employees.

"A study in 2014 found that psychological well-being, including the ability to concentrate and happiness, was higher for people commuting by active travel, like walking or public transport, compared to driving," according to Psychology Today. "Furthermore, switching from car driving to active travel resulted in improved well-being. Longer travel time for walkers actually improved well-being, whereas the opposite was true for drivers. In contrast, driving requires constant concentration and can result in increased boredom, social isolation, and stress.

Hacienda has long recognized both the business value as well as the environmental benefits of supporting a commute program. In 2018, and earlier years, Hacienda was named one of the Best Workplaces for Commuters for offering exceptional employee-provided commuter benefits that meet the National Standard of Excellence criteria.

Guided by the conviction that transportation alternatives are essential to meeting the needs of today's workforce, Hacienda has crafted one of the most comprehensive commute service programs available. The wide range of free and convenient offerings include access to local and inter-regional transit and shuttles, incentives for new riders trying commute alternatives, preferential parking for rideshare and rideshare assistance, an emergency ride home, a library of commuting resources, pedestrian and biking facilities, and centralized commute information services.

The Origin of Spare the Air

The Spare the Air Employer Program notifies member organizations when a Spare the Air day has been announced so they can share the news with employees. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issues Spare the Air Alerts when ozone pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels in the Bay Area.

The summertime Spare the Air program tells residents and members of the Spare the Air Employer Program when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, and urges residents to drive less and reduce their emissions of ozone-forming pollutants during those days by cutting back on pollution-causing activities using oil-based paints, gasoline-powered lawn mowers, or household aerosol products like hair sprays. It also encourages employers to allow employees to cut pollution by telecommuting rather than driving to work.

During a Spare the Air alert day, people who are sensitive to unhealthy air are advised to limit their time outdoors, especially in the afternoon hours. The summer Spare the Air smog season generally runs between April through the end of October.

Small particulates, or soot, from fires, driving, and other activities can become a serious problem during the winter. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issues a winter Spare the Air Alert when the fine particulate concentrations are expected to be unhealthy. It is illegal for residents to burn wood, fire logs, pellets, or any other solid fuels in a fireplace, woodstove, or other wood-burning device between November 1 through the end of February if a winter Spare the Air alert has been issued.

California has long been a pioneer in establishing air quality standards to protect the health of residents. San Francisco Bay Area officials have also worked hard to significantly reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life for those who live and work in the area. The free Spare the Air Employer Program is an opportunity for business leaders to join these efforts to keep air clean and potentially reduce their costs, and improve employee morale in the process.

For more information about the Spare the Air Employer Program, please visit www.employerssparetheair.org . For more information about the general Spare the Air Program, please visit www.sparetheair.org . For more information about Hacienda's award-winning commute program, please visit www.hacienda.org/amenities-employees-residents/commute-solutions .

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