Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Taking cars off the road with our transportation programs

This is the third in a short series of posts and videos spotlighting our efforts to make Google greener. In this post, we give you a glimpse at how our transportation programs help Googlers get to work while leaving their cars at home. -Ed.

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'.

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