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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Leave your car at home!

Am I serious?  Sort of.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  We all love our cars.  We choose the brand, the style, even the color to reflect our personalities and the images we want to present to the world.  For many of us, a car (even a used one) was our first major purchase.  Mine was a 1983 Toyota Corolla.  It was silver, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.  But cars are a problem, especially if we each drive one, individually transporting ourselves where we need to go — like work.  The problem isn’t actually the car.  It’s the emissions from the car, waste that is sent into the air to dissipate.  Even though we might not be able to see it, that waste is hurting our world.  We know that.

So what does this have to do with the small business owner?  If you’re thinking about how you can set a good example for your employees or establish your operation in a way that lessens the drag on the environment, then you should be thinking about cars.  More specifically, you should be thinking about how your employees get to work.  The key question is this — can people reach you without having to get in a car?

Let’s say they can, that there are alternative options for transportation – buses, a subway, maybe even bike routes. Fabulous!  Are people using them?  Do a quick “transportation audit,” asking your employees to tell you how they get to work.  Get the lay of the land.  With that information in hand, you might uncover key information, such as a group of people who already use the subway who can talk to the rest of the team about the benefits.  Host a meeting to generate ideas.  It’ll get people thinking about alternatives they have and what roadblocks they are facing.  Maybe someone doesn’t want to ride the bus because the routes seem complicated, but by sharing that information another employee can help out by explaining the routes.  Maybe you’ll learn that employees would ride their bikes if you provided a bike rack. 

You may also learn that employees are passionate about riding bikes to work but are very concerned about safety.  Talk with the other small business owners in your neighborhood and see if there is a way you can band together to advocate for bike paths to be built.  Make your voice heard!

If your people can’t get to work by bus, subway, bike or even walking, then it might seem you’re stuck with cars.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage carpooling.  Find out where people are coming from and help connect the dots.  Coordinate schedules so people who live closer to each other really can carpool to work (versus working opposite shifts).  Alternatively, search the web for a resource that matches individuals with carpool mates who work in the same general area but not the same company.  Some hotels and companies save the best parking spots for people who drive hybrids (as a Prius driver, I think that’s very cool).  That’s another easy way to encourage more environmentally friendly behavior.

Finally, if you are thinking about relocating your business, give serious thought to where you want your office to be from the perspective of an employee getting to work each day.  Is it on a bus line?  Is it near a subway stop?  Are there safe bike routes that go through the area?  Is there housing near enough by that someone would actually ride to work — or maybe even walk?  These are important questions to ask about your customers as well.  Can they easily get to you a bunch of different ways without having to put a key in the ignition?

Think about it.  Ask your people.  Brainstorm about ideas.  Little things do add up to big wins for this beautiful world where we live.

Rachel Hutchisson (@RachelHutchssn) is VP, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud, Inc., a 2,700-person technology company that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations. She built the company’s “give back” function from the ground up, relying on expertise she gained in over two decades of working at the intersection of the business world and the nonprofit sector. Rachel is a member of the #GivingTuesday core advisory team, leads her company’s involvement in the Billion+Change pro-bono initiative, and serves on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals International, The Giving Institute, and the Coastal Community Foundation. She is also a member of the core team that launched TEDxCharleston in 2013. She is a graduate of Dickinson College and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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