We northern New Englanders drive more per capita than most other Americans, and transportation is our biggest producer of greenhouse gases. So it’s great when people find ways of getting around the Upper Valley that don’t involve driving by themselves. Bikes, e-bikes, buses, carpools – what’s your transportation story? Here’s one:
Hypertherm has robust goals to be net-zero by 2030. Their triple bottom line approach prioritizes their associates, community, and the environment before profit. After realizing that a large percentage of their carbon emissions come from commuting, they instituted commuting benefits for their employees in 2015. Associates get paid anytime they carpool, ride the bus, walk, or bike to work.
In July this year they relaunched their vanpool. This unique alternative to carpooling works like this. Employees are recruited to be a part of the vanpool and can volunteer to be drivers. Hypertherm provides a seven person passenger van and pays for the gas and the vehicle maintenance. Currently, two vans are operating, serving first shift and third shift employees commuting from Claremont to Lebanon. Vanpool members commit to participating for at least 60 days and pay $40 a month, much less than they would pay for gas and their own vehicle maintenance.
The program is great for employees who lack reliable transportation, want to save on commuting costs, or simply don’t enjoy driving. In case of emergency, vanpool members are guaranteed a ride home through Enterprise, a car rental service.
Not only are employees reaping the material benefits, they also get the opportunity to meet individuals outside of their department, network, and build comradery with their fellow employees. Vanpool members collectively decide on their “van culture”. This could be a silent ride for members who prefer it, or a chance to jam to rock tunes on your way to work with fellow metal heads.
Hypertherm hopes to be able to expand this program in the future, especially with employees commuting from afar afield as St. Johnsbury and Manchester. They also hope to inspire other local companies to adopt this benefit. Programs like the vanpool can be advantageous for companies who are seeking to support their employees, and attract workers who don’t have a vehicle, are less economically secure, or live farther away.
Overall, this program reduces Hypertherm’s carbon emissions while making the associate’s experience better. As Jamie Green, an Environmental Stewardship Specialist and vanpool member at Hypertherm attests, “that hour of not driving a day is relaxing.”
This interview is part of our Getting Around transportation series, where we interview individuals who are seeking alternatives to driving by themselves. If you would like to share your story, please reach out by emailing Leona.