Talking about Commuting Sustainably

Photo Credit –  City of Missoula website: http://ci.missoula.mt.us/1990/Biking-in-Missoula

By Alli Kane

I’m new to Montana and I don’t have a car so I’m planning to rely on walking, biking, the free public transit in Missoula or making friends with cars. I’m from a beach town, I’ve never owned a car and until recently I was living in Copenhagen where bike infrastructure is first-class and the metro comes every 3 minutes. This means I’m used to more sustainable modes of transport like biking, walking, and taking the subway or bus and I’ve never really had an issue. I find it enjoyable and, especially when you’re new in town, it’s a great way to see the city and feel like you’re a part of it at the same time.

I recently signed up to Missoula in Motion’s Way to Go club, an app where you can log commutes and errands and get rewards for carpooling, riding the bus, riding your bike, and walking. You can also see how much money you’ve saved, how many pounds of carbon you’ve avoided which is really cool. As a member, I was invited to a breakfast with speakers who talked about the ways they incentivized their employees to commute more sustainably.  A few people from one of my host sites, Climate Smart Missoula, attended as well and we talked afterwards about how it wasn’t an initiative we needed to undertake in our office because we all mainly rely on bikes and feet to get us to work.

This got me thinking about why I don’t have to convince myself to get on my bike in the morning or to look up the bus schedule on a particularly cold and rainy day. Would my reasons be compelling enough to change someone else’s habits? Could I convey them convincingly enough? At my other host site, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, I’m figuring out how to best engage caregivers in our sustainable commuting campaign. Part of that campaign is the 3x Bus Challenge through which employees can win prizes by riding the bus 3 times before the end of the year and sending us a few sentences on their experience.

This month our 3x Bus Challenge winner talked about how he used his bus commute to meditate, something he otherwise could not have done if he were concentrating on driving. It’s intriguing to hear that riding the bus transformed his commute from a stressful event to a time he could take advantage of in order to unwind from a hectic day at the hospital. I find that to be relatable. I think commuting sustainably is a huge stress reliever, unlike driving which I find often adds stress. I never thought to use that time to meditate or clear my mind, so reading about what he enjoyed most during those 3 rides is particularly refreshing and useful on a few levels, (1) it’s encouraging to hear that other people liked not driving, (2) it lets me reflect on a new perspective, and (3) it provides me with new ways to talk about commuting that might resonate with a wider demographic.

On top of researching best practices, I think having the ability to relate my experience to others will help me create messaging that can increase the number of sustainable commuters at St Pats and help them reach their emissions reduction goals.

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