The Clean Air Commute

Summary
The Clean Air Commute was created to encourage members of the public to use a cleaner means of transportation on one day during the month of June. While the program quickly gained popularity, its initial design did not allow organizers to track its impact on people’s ongoing transportation habits. To rectify this, a pilot was designed to expand upon the one-day event and measure changes in behavior over the course of three months. The original program sought to recruit companies for participation, challenging them to compete against one another and earn points for employee participation in activities including carpooling, taking public transit, walking, biking, rollerblading, working from home, or undertaking a car efficiency tune-up. A committee of executives from companies that had previously participated in the challenge were tasked with recruiting new participants, while motivated staff members acted as coordinators within each company encouraging their colleagues to participate. To help promote the upcoming challenge, organizers raised awareness through a month-long Clean Air Campaign. Color posters and informational brochures displayed in office spaces acted as prompts, branded t-shirts, caps, and umbrellas served to increase visibility and reinforce social norms, and rail upgrades, free passes, coupons, and other prize giveaways provided participants with incentives making it easier for them to engage in desired behaviors. On the day of the event, upon arrival at work, employees marked their mode of transport on a chart. Points were later assigned to each company’s chart depending on the activities listed and recognition of the highest scoring companies was given via an awards ceremony and newspaper announcement.  The pilot, which ran in 1996, recruited seven companies from that year’s list of participants and randomly assigned them to a treatment or control group. While three companies acted as controls for the pilot, four were sent two versions of a questionnaire designed to reflect two types of participation in the event. Employees that had undertaken an activity already familiar to them were asked to commit to an additional activity for three months, while those that had undertaken a new activity were asked to extend their participation in the new behavior for the same period of time. A telephone survey conducted at the end of the pilot revealed that study participants took public transit four times as often, bicycled five times as often, and walked or ran to work seven times as often, compared with a control group.

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