"We have seen a savings of up to 6,000 commuter miles made by our employees. That translates into a reduction of 2.5 million pounds of C02 green house gases.”
Eric Van Dellen
Sustainability Program Manager for Amway
Amway takes the Greenride
As a global business giant and a major local employer, Amway always seeks to lead by example. Their efforts to integrate sustainability into their offerings extend to their local operations here in West Michigan where thousand of employees make their home throughout the region.
To provide a more cost effective and environmentally responsible way to commute to and from work, Amway sought to offer transportation assistance solutions to its employees during the past year.
It started with Eric Van Dellen, Sustainability Program Manager for Amway. Through his involvement with the West Michigan Sustainability Forum, Van Dellen and other Forum members began talking about ways they could reduce the number of cars on the road. They began thinking about alternative transportation options that might be offered as viable solutions.
“The Rapid had presented their programs at a Sustainability Forum meeting,” recalls Van Dellen. “I called them and they came in and made a presentation. I wanted to know what they could offer other than buses. I was pleased to see all the other transportation programs they had. I really didn’t know they had all those options. After the presentation I thought that the GreenRide® program could be a great option for our company.”
The Rapid and GreenRide offer direct assistance, information, and planning support to companies to develop cost effective and efficient carpooling and vanpooling programs — programs very much like the one that Amway now has successfully put in place. The Rapid leverages GreenRide to connect potential carpoolers seeking ridesharing partners. GreenRide is a web-based application available via The Rapid’s website that helps individuals find transportation alternatives in the Greater Grand Rapids metro area and surrounding counties including Allegan, Kent, and Ottawa. GreenRide helps find carpooling partners by searching for others who live near one individual and have similar commute schedules. Companies can also choose to partner with The Rapid to offer a business-specific carpooling program to their employees.
Kevin Wisselink, coordinator of the GreenRide and RapidVan programs for The Rapid, looked at Amway’s need to create an efficient ridesharing program that would best serve the needs of the company and its employees. Wisselink and The Rapid conducted a zip code analysis of Amway employees and designed a program that would fit their needs.
“We designed a GreenRide program so that everyone at Amway could get involved,” said Wisselink. “It’s a very low cost program to operate and essentially has no costs for the employees who use it.”
Amway’s Van Dellen saw the carpooling program outlined by The Rapid as the best way to respond to the company’s desire for an alternative, ‘greener’ solution for commuting employees.
“Amway is one of the better employers in the area,” said Van Dellen, “so we attract people from all over the West Michigan area who drive here to work. One of the first things that The Rapid did was construct a zip code map that showed us exactly where our employees lived. That really led us to the ridesharing option. We found a lot of our employees don’t live in the City of Grand Rapids. They lived all over the place. So we really thought that ridesharing would be the most effective solution.
“We provide the direction, but they (Amway) were the ones that took the lead and made the program work,” says Wisselink.
Since launching the GreenRide program, the number of employee participants has increased steadily as the awareness of the program has grown. Between November and mid-January, the pool of participants has grown from 347 to nearly 400 people now carpooling to work every day — and even more are expected to join in the future.
From Amway’s standpoint, the program goes beyond just saving employees money on fuel and other associated commuting costs. The environmental impact of programs like GreenRide obviously rate high on the company’s list of priorities today. Van Dellen says that the program has already had a dramatic effect on the local environment.
“Since we launched the GreenRide program on Earth Day last April we have seen a savings of up to 6,000 commuter miles made by our employees,” says Van Dellen. “That translates into a reduction of 2.5 million pounds of C02 green house gases. We also think this is good for our reputation as a company that supports a real sustainability platform. Today, everybody says they are ‘green’ but we really practice what we preach. Plus it’s an added benefit for our employees.”
In addition to impacting the environment by reducing green house gases, the GreenRide program also comes down to common sense, and dollars and cents for the Amway employees who use the program on a day-to-day basis.
Cathy Baker, a software quality engineer at Amway, lives in North Muskegon and joined the GreenRide program to save money on a commute that was close to an hour drive each way.
“The biggest thing was saving money on gas,” said Baker. “I started carpooling right after I saw the GreenRide advertised at work. Gas was $4 dollars a gallon!”
While gas prices may have become more reasonable for the time being, the overwhelming benefits of using the GreenRide program have kept her involved.
“My drive to the carpool lot is only 20 minutes. The drive to work used to be 60 minutes each way,” says Baker. “Now I don’t have to drive every day. I can sit and read on the way to work. That’s nice. I really like that.”
Baker shares her ride to work with six other Amway employees who she became connected with through the GreenRide program. By participating in the program Baker has reduced her need to drive to work only three times, every two weeks.
“I’ll drive once one week, and then twice the next,” she says. “The scheduling has been handled by one of the members of our group. It’s really been enjoyable to drive with different people from our department. There were enough of us living on the west coast to fill our carpool group. It’s really been a lot of fun.”
In fact there have been enough Amway employees participating in the GreenRide program living on the west coast that Baker says there are two different groups leaving from the Muskegon carpool lot on a daily basis.
In addition to having some good company on the way to work, and a choice of driving times, plus saving a lot of money on gas — and being able to relax on the way to work with a good book — she finds there’s one more significant advantage to carpooling to work.
“We have reserved parking for carpoolers at work,” she says. “It’s a designated spot that’s closer than if you drove to work, where parking is usually first-come, first- served.”
“It’s just another little perk of using GreenRide,” says Baker.
Van Dellen also noted the GreenRide program provided something ‘extra’ for their employees. “We are a very employee- focused company,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to make their lives more comfortable and more profitable — as well as supporting our environmental programs.”
While the GreenRide carpooling program is off to a flying start at Amway, there may be even more opportunities and new alternatives in transportation coming down the road for the company.
“As we look at the acceptance and success of this program, we may move on to other programs as well,” says Van Dellen. “Parking, traffic, and the younger people who are now using The Rapid are starting to shift our perspective on mass transportation. It is a cultural change, but it’s coming.”