With credit unions seeking ways to encourage their members to be more environmentally sensitive, the credit unions themselves must set a good example. At the forefront of this trend is SAFE Credit Union, Sacramento, California, which has multiple green initiatives to reduce consumption in a variety of ways. Safe rented their employee parking lot to a vendor who built solar carports and placed advertising on the roofs. Employee cars were shaded, lessening the need for air conditioning when departing the lot, the panels harvested energy, with the advertisers footing the bill. Other small changes, like switching from flow irrigation to drip irrigation on the credit union’s grounds, will have a considerable impact on consumption without costing a fortune.
2. New England
Technological enhancements over the past few years have made work schedules more flexible, allowing employees to work alternative hours or telecommute from home. New England Federal Credit Union, Williston, Vermont, provides both options at its call center. Following a test period for remote call center staff over the summer, they hope to have 2 employees working from home by the New Year. Other employees are now working flexible hours on-site. Taken together, these structural changes boost employee morale as well as save staff money on gas.
3. U.S. Government/Navy Federal
Rush hour traffic is one of the biggest drains on both gas and productivity. In 2007, the Texas Transportation Institute estimated that Americans waste about 2.9 billion gallons of fuel stuck in traffic with traffic jams costing the U.S. $78 billion in productivity. Both Navy Federal Credit Union, Merrifield, Virginia and the U.S. Federal government are trying to help their employees avoid rush hour traffic through alternative work schedules such as 4 10-hour days per week or the possibility of shifting work hours to avoid peak traffic times. With simple changes in work schedules, employees save considerable money on gas and are more productive at work.
Payday is one of the busiest days at credit unions, with long teller lines and additional staff needed to handle the increased business. Australian credit unions like Horizon Credit Union in Wollongong have found a way to reduce the congestion. Through SMS/text messages, members can receive alerts on their mobile phones when their paycheck is deposited, eliminating the need to drive to the credit union and reducing the number of tellers who need to commute to handle the crush. Americans have not yet taken advantage of the many features that mobile banking has to offer. By adopting this simple technology, the number of member trips made to the credit union can be significantly reduced.
Carpooling is one of the easiest ways to reduce the number of cars on the road during rush hour. In Newport News, Virginia, Langley Federal Credit Union garnered media coverage when they sponsored Carpool Day during which they rewarded carpoolers and walkers with cash gifts and a party in the parking lot. The first annual Carpool Day encouraged employees to find alternative ways to commute to work, spurring one-third of the 430 person staff to participate. While only a handful of employees carpooled prior to the event, many more do so now.
In most areas with traffic congestion, public transportation systems have been established to help commuters get to work. To reduce the amount of gas employees consume, Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, Colorado provides a 25% discount on bus passes to employees who want it. Those for whom public transportation is not readily accessible are encouraged to start a carpool using the company database to find riders or bicycle to work, using the indoor bike racks to protect them from the harsh climate.
When employees are unable to use alternative methods to commute, employers can still help out. Vantage Credit Union, Bridgeton, Missouri, decided to make a one-time gift to employees to help pay for a tank of gas. Each of their 300 employees received a $40 or $20 gas card, depending on the number of hours they work per week. Senior management has received many thank-you notes from the employees for the kind gesture.
8. Boeing Employees
One of the reasons many employees choose not to carpool is that in an emergency, they would be unable to get where they need to go. Seattle’s Boeing Employees Credit Union encourages its employees to find alternative ways to get to and from work by offering the Guaranteed Ride Home program, which ensures employees can get home when sick, after unscheduled overtime, or for a family emergency. Having won a Diamond Award from Commuter Challenge in 2001, BECU’s employees are more likely to use alternative methods of commuting, knowing that in an emergency they are not stranded at work and are able to get home.
9. Prime Financial
As gas prices spike, some businesses are making significant outlays to help employees cope. In July, Prime Financial Credit Union in Cudahy, Wisconsin started depositing monthly gas allowances in employees’ accounts. Not only is the credit union helping employees pay for gas, but also senior management understands that proper car maintenance helps reduce gas consumption. Teaming up with a local car dealership, Prime Financial is giving out coupons for oil changes and car inspections to make sure employees’ cars are in tip-top shape. As winter approaches, fuel-efficiency becomes even more important because in the cold, Wisconsin climate, cars take longer to warm up, using more gas on each trip than in moderate weather.
10. Vancouver City Savings
The most frequent excuse employees give for not biking or walking to work is that they aren’t able to shower once they get there. Vancouver City Savings Credit Union in British Columbia, Canada eliminated this excuse by providing a bike storage room, lockers, and showers in the main office. For those who live further away, each branch is located on a public transportation route and has priority parking for carpools. Now, over 50 percent of Vancity’s employees take alternative transportation to get to work each day.