Environmentalism, Sort Of

Last Updated Jun 20, 2007 6:53 PM EDT

roadkill-520.gifIn an effort to be more "green," my company recently began charging employees to park in the company lot as a way to encourage more employees to carpool and use public transportation.
I am very environmentally conscious. I drive a hybrid vehicle, and I applaud any effort to reduce carbon emissions. But I live far out in the country and have a long commute, and neither public transportation or carpooling are realistic options.
I feel as though I'm being penalized for something that is beyond my control, and the new policy makes me feel like a dirty polluter each time I pay the parking lot attendant. But I don't want to discourage environmentalism. Where's the line?
Like you, I applaud your company's efforts to promote anything that reduces our carbon footprint. But I think your company has gone about it slightly wrong. They've forced it on by making noncompliance into a penalty; they should have encouraged it by making compliance into a reward. Otherwise, trying to sell this new parking fee as a company effort to "go green" sounds a bit bogus (I hope they're doing something good with the money they're collecting from the evil drivers!)

A simple solution, which would force your company to prove they believe in the "green" enough to spend some green, would be to set a monthly fee for the parking garage -- say $100 -- but then give employees a $100 transportation allowance each month. If an employee continues to drive to work, both sides break even. But if an employee makes the sacrifice and carpools or uses public transportation, that's money in their bank account.

For you to make this case without sounding whiny will be a bit tricky. But the hybrid, and the fact that you call yourself "very environmentally conscious," makes me think you are the right person for the cause.

Your company will probably balk at the idea of actually spending its own money -- instead of its employees' -- to encourage alternate forms of transportation, but in the long run it could save them a bundle in maintenance fees for the parking lot, not to mention the value of that land should they be able to reduce parking enough to sell some of it. Or they could just use that land to plant some trees and help offset the carbon emissions for those who must drive to work. Now that would be "green."

Have a workplace-ethics dilemma? Ask it here, or email wherestheline@gmail.com

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.