Greening Your Commute

Small changes make a big difference. We see daily implementation of this in the form of reusable grocery bags and turning off office lights and computers at the end of the work day. But going green doesn’t need to stop at 5 p.m. when you head for the door. You can actually start and end your day on a greener note by changing the way you get to work.

How does your commute affect the environment? Automobiles emit various forms of air pollution, including particle pollution and the components of ground-level ozone. While those pollutants may sound like they just fell out of a high school science book, they are very harmful to human health.

Ground-level ozone, or the haze known as smog that you see over the city on a hot summer day, targets the respiratory system and causes inflammation in the airways which can lead to asthma attacks. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Birmingham is listed as the No. 3 Asthma Capital in the country.

Particle pollution (PM 2.5), which is smaller than the width of a human hair, can aggravate heart and lung diseases and cause heart attacks and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

To protect human health and our environment, the EPA sets federal air pollution standards, but it’s always a challenge for Jefferson and Shelby Counties to meet these limits. For particle pollution (PM 2.5), the counties are classified as “nonattainment,” or over the limit.

Birmingham residents and workers are striving to change this by working with CommuteSmart to find cleaner, greener ways to get to work. A program of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, CommuteSmart helps commuters and employers take action to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion through clean commutes. They include carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking, teleworking and taking transit.

You can go green with your commute today by following a few simple tips from CommuteSmart.

• Join the online ridematching database and find carpool, vanpool and even bikepool partners.
• Clean commute as often as possible. Even carpooling two or three days a week or teleworking on Fridays makes a big difference.
• Fill up after 6 p.m. on air quality alert days. Sign up for Air Quality Alerts and remind your carpool or vanpool to fill up in the evening on alert days.
• Combining your trips can save you time and money by reducing driving.

Protecting the environment with a clean commute not only benefits future generations, it benefits you in the here and now. CommuteSmart wants to help you (and thank you) for doing your part through these programs:

• GetGreen: If you’re new to clean commuting, CommuteSmart will pay residents and workers in Jefferson and Shelby Counties $2 a day, up to $120 over three months for everyday they carpool, bike, walk, telework or take transit to work.
• Commuter Club: If you clean commute on occasion, CommuteSmart wants to help you make it routine. Join the Club and earn gift cards for every 20 clean commutes logged over three months.
• Two for the Road vanpool promotion: Vanpooling can take 5-14 cars off the road everyday – that’s a lot of pollution kept out of the air. Through this special promotion, groups of four riders can use a van for free and even get $40 in gas cards to get started.

Start your clean commute today and help your friends, neighbors and co-workers breathe easier by making a small change that will have a big impact on Birmingham’s air quality. Visit for more information and to join the online ridematching database. Your lungs will thank you!


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