We know by now that being more mindful about our use of our cars, and of fossil fuels, is an important step to take for the environment. This can feel daunting when we have to get to and from work on most days – but remember that even if driving to work is not optional, we don’t have to do it alone.
Carpools can be a huge environmental help. According to the EPA, “leaving your car at home just two days per week can reduce carbon pollution by an average of two tons per year.”
Ready to get greener – and into the HOV lane? Try these tips:
Find your people
This is probably the biggest step: You’ll need to find others whose routes to work match well enough with yours. If you don’t know of any obvious candidates, send an office-wide email explaining your goal and where you commute from; people you haven’t met yet may be looking for the same thing. If you work at a bigger company, make sure you’re reaching colleagues beyond your department floor.
And if your office shares a building with many others, see what you can do to reach out to other companies’ employees. Does the building have common spaces, such as a shared cafeteria? If so, going “old school” with fliers on a bulletin board can still work just fine. Or speak with a building manager to see how information can be shared easily between companies.
Alternately, start your search from home. Does your neighborhood have a community website or Facebook page? Post to see if people near you have a commute that’s in sync with yours. The website and app Commutewise.com is also a great resource – described as “a social network for carpooling,” it’s designed specifically to help carpoolers find each other.
Define your terms
Once you know who’s in your carpool, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to work together. Who’ll be picked up, in what order, and at what time? How will you handle last-minute changes or sick days? And a question from high school years returns: Does the driver get to dictate the driving tunes?
Though it may have been covered for you in high school, you now have your own car insurance. Make sure everyone in your group is up to date with their policy and that everyone’s car is current with inspections. It won’t hurt to scan these important forms into a file that everyone in the group can access.
One potential pothole is the chance that the day’s driver will have an unforeseen late night at work, leaving the others without a ride home at the time they expected. Explore your options, in advance, for a shared car-service ride with your fellow carpoolers if this happens. Obviously, you don’t want to pay for a car service every night, but the money you’re saving on gas and the wear and tear your car will be spared via carpooling should more than make up for occasional shared carfare.
Arrange your schedule and stay on top of changes
Who’s driving when? And what if there are last-minute shifts in availability or need? You’ll want to be super clear on these issues, so everyone gets to work on time. Again, Commutewise can help keep things straight; it’s designed for working out the details of daily commutes. Also check out the options on GroupCarpool.com, which helps organize one-time-only or regular carpools. If you’re using it for regular work carpooling, a small yearly fee gets you help managing group communications, backup organizational support, and even a way of recording the environmental benefits your carpool is bringing to the world.