What would Austin look like if we took 10,000 cars off the roads?
That's what the Social Good Summit, an initiative of Mashable, hopes to do on Friday, February 8. The citywide "Work from Home (WFH)" Initiative is an effort to get Austinites to pledge to telecommute that day instead of driving their cars — fostering lower ozone and carbon emissions, while educating our work force about tools to make working remotely simple and manageable.
WFH is looking forward to deserted streets around town on Friday, as thousands of people pledge to work from home.
City Councilman Mike Martinez was instrumental in getting a resolution by the City Council passed that supports the WFH initiative. "Environmental issues continue to be at the forefront of our priorities in the City of Austin,” Martinez says.
“These values are reflected in the Work From Home initiative. I was happy to sponsor a resolution that passed unanimously to have the city participate in the pilot program to make strides toward reducing emissions and improving our air quality in Austin.”
In an initiative created at the Austin area simulcast of the highly-lauded Mashable Social Good Summit held in New York City last September, a group of community activists, leaders and socially conscious entrepreneurs gathered to discuss ways to create a sustainable impact on U.S. communities. The local summit group decided that the focus on fostering clean air was among the most urgent of needs for Austin; hence, a self-imposed tight working timeline.
“We wanted to see the fruits of our ‘good’ produce results within six months,” says Ruben Cantu of CORE Media Enterprises, one of the effort’s leaders. “It’s an ambitious timeline, but we’re an ambitious bunch in a city that likes to push harder for change than most!”
Air quality test results of the pilot day will be presented during the Social Good Summit Austin during SXSW on March 10 at City Hall and shared with the community at large on the Social Good Summit website. Cantu hopes that the results will inspire more businesses to establish their own Work from Home days.
Some of the companies and organizations participating in WFH day on February 8 include the office of the Governor of Texas, AMD, Capital Metro, PGI, Jason's Deli and Travis County. Governor Rick Perry issued an official certificate of support for the pilot program, saying that "working remotely can not only keep Texas' environment clean, but also facilitate worker productivity, improve traffic flow and reduce strain on our roads."
AMD, for one, realizes what an impact it has, as a large employer, on air quality and traffic. The company implemented a commuter benefits program over a decade ago and has eliminated over 1.4 million miles of driving and one million pounds of local CO2 pollution since 2007.
The Work from Home initiative represents the soul and character of a city like Austin, Cantu says.
"Austin is built on a strong community who cares about the environment, quality of life, and our future. This project tackles all three. More importantly it shows that the community is alive and well and that people will mobilize around a great idea. Work from home is not just about a day, it is about a shift in our mentality and culture in this city. If we want this city to remain the place of attraction, we need to keep it attractive, and one thing is for sure, no one likes sitting in traffic."