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REWIRE: Incentivizing Employees to Reduce Their Carbon Footprints

Posted by AllEarth Renewables on March 3, 2016 in Green Companies, Renewable Revolutionaries, Company Culture, AllEarth Renewables, Carbon Footprint, Consumer, Dealers

AllEarth Employee Bike RackAs a renewables company, creating a cleaner, more sustainable world is what we're all about. We believe that encouraging our employees to lower their carbon footprints and live a lifestyle consistent with that goal is integral to carrying out our mission.

Some companies, including us, have tried incentivizing specific environmental actions, such as reimbursing employees for taking public transportation rather than driving a car, offering subsidies to make home energy improvements, or giving financial assistance for the purchase of a Prius. But based on our rapidly changing climate, we recognized that these measures weren't enough, and that many of our employees weren't able to take full advantage of them. We needed to up the ante and create a way for our employees to truly lessen their dependence on fossil fuels in a meaningful way.

That's why, in 2012, we launched our innovative REWIRE program,  a carbon tax on all employees. We decided to focus on three key areas of fossil fuel consumption:

  • Personal and family transportation
  • Home heating
  • Electricity

Of course, there are many other factors that contribute to an individual's carbon footprint, such as airplane travel, food choices, etc. However, we wanted to keep things simple, and so we chose to just track three of the main sources of carbon output.

How Does It Work?

We provide an annual benefit of $6,000 to each employee, to cover driving, electricity, and heating needs. On the first and last day of the year, every participating employee submits :

  • Odometer reading for all vehicles in their household, along with make, model, year, and EPA MPG data
  • Annual summary of home heating fuel usage from the utility, or picture of meter
  • Annual summary of electricity from the utility, or picture of meter

All energy use is converted to kWh/unit of fossil fuel. Based on the information provided, AllEarth calculates the carbon reduction incentive based on a taxed rate of $0.15/kWh.  Use less than the $6,000 provided? You get to keep it! (But don't worry - if an employee uses more, they don't owe the company money).

Why a Carbon Tax?

Under AllEarth's old green benefits program, we told employees exactly what they could or could not buy, drive, or do in order to qualify for monetary incentives for lowering fossil fuel usage. However, this type of program had some issues: renters had less of an opportunity to participate, and it didn't effectively address what the real energy issues are (providing a higher incentive for cars and a lower incentive for insulation, for example). Under our REWIRE program, we give our employees a direct incentive to make changes to their energy use, and the power to choose carbon reduction strategies that fit with their individual lifestyles. All that matters is the total at the end of the year--how employees get there is up to them.

Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Making the most of that $6,000 benefit might seem like it's easier said than done. But it doesn't have to be hard--here are a few strategies our employees have used to help lower their carbon footprints:

  • Living closer to work
  • Biking or taking public transportation instead of driving
  • Installing a hot water heater
  • Installing a solar PV system (either a tracker, or on a roof if lacking yard space)
  • Heating homes with wood instead of fuel
  • Using a clothesline or drying rack instead of a dryer
  • Conserving electricity. Turning off the lights can go a long way!

Results

We've been running the program since 2012, and in that time we've seen some remarkable change. Our average annual per-employee kWh usage has decreased from 28,809.46 kWh in 2012 to 22,382.20 kWh in 2015 - an average of 6,427 kWh, or 22%, less per person! Most of our employees bike to work or use alternative transportation (garnering us multiple wins in the Way to Go VT Carbon Cup Challenge and the National Bike Challenge), and 51% of our employees have homes powered by the sun. This year, the award for smallest AllEarth carbon footprint went to Director of Operations Phil Pouech, who managed an impressive total of just 11,297 kWh in 2015 (less than half of the average per-person total). He attributes his success to an efficiently design home, his solar tracker, and using his car as little as possible.

Learn more about who we are and what we're all about in our "Why We're Here" video, exploring AllEarth's company history, culture, and values.

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