Pick an eco-friendly way to get to work

April 14, 2009

By Missy Baxter

Duke program coordinator Amy Norstrud has devised a way to slash fuel costs and air pollution during her 120-mile daily commute to and from her South Boston, Virginia, home.

Instead of driving alone in her 2001 Chevy pickup, which gets about 15 miles per gallon, Norstrud carpools about twice a week with her parents, Darby and John Johnson, who also work at Duke.

They plan to shift into high gear by carpooling daily during the 2009 Smart Commute Challenge, which runs from April 15 to May 30. They’ll join hundreds of other Duke employees and Triangle commuters to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by carpooling, bus riding, van pooling, cycling and using other alternative transportation options, such as hybrid vehicles.

“Carpooling saves a ton of money on gas, along with a lot of wear and tear on my vehicle,” said Norstrud, 35, a program coordinator with Biomedical Engineering, who also participated in the challenge last year. “Plus, it’s fun to have someone to talk with along the way.”

In a new twist this year, participants are eligible for free bus bases and vanpool fare, along with prizes such as a bike and laptop. The goal of this year’s six-week campaign, coordinated by the Triangle Transit and Smart Commute@rtp, is to cut 2.2 million pounds of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of 200 people not driving their cars for a year.

“Greening your commute is one of the most significant actions you can take to reduce your carbon footprint,” said Audra Foree, an event organizer with Triangle Transit Authority. “For each mile you use a smarter commute mode, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by about one pound.”

During last year’s challenge, about 12,000 Triangle commuters reduced emissions by about 1.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

This year, participants who ride a Triangle Transit or Durham Area Transit Authority bus during the challenge will receive an e-mail with a link to register for a free one-day bus pass for any bus system in the Triangle.

For commuters who start or join a vanpool before May 30, Triangle Transit is offering a free first month of vanpool fare.