New Haven/Leon Sister City Project’s small size helped it sweep a prize for avoiding greenhouse gas emissions by a small organization in a recent citywide “Car Free Challenge” — given that one of its employees doesn’t even own a car.
Chris Schweitzer, New Haven/Leon’s program director t, is that employee. With just three employees total working at the project during September’s “Go New Haven Go” challenge — and Schweitzer as the sole active participant — the project managed to prevent .0865 tons of C02 emissions.
The efforts of this year’s Go New Haven Go CarFree Challenge participants were recognized Thursday during an awards ceremony in the well-appointed resident lounge of the Corsair luxury apartment complex in East Rock’s Goatville neighborhood.
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication received a prize for having the highest number of active participants at a small organization using alternative forms of transportation to move around the city.
Schweitzer said he’s spent most of his life without a car, and he hasn’t owned a one in more than a decade.
“I’m not even really an environmentalist,” he said. “I just don’t want the expense of a car.”
Schweitzer said he never wanted to have his life choices dictated by the expenses associated with car ownership such as maintenance, gas and parking costs.
Each September for the last three years, Go New Haven Go has challenged people to get out of their cars and try alternative-transportation options such as walking, biking and using public transportation to get around town. The goal is to get people to consider how they might help the environment, their wallet and their waistline by going car free, or at least car light, for a month.
Though the number of participating organizations dipped from 35 to 25 this year, the challenge continued to be popular among individual participants. This time 694 people spent less time in their car than before; last year there were 483 individual participants.
East Rock Alder Jessica Holmes noted Thursday night that the challenge calls on people to really examine their driving habits, and how they can make an effort to cut back in a way that would be beneficial to their health. A nurse by trade, Holmes pointed out that commuting in cars makes for a more sedentary lifestyle which can lead to chronic health problems like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression.
“I’m a person who uses a car more often than I would like to admit,” she said. “Someone in my family always needs a ride somewhere.” She said the car-free challenge encouraged her family to think about whether they really need what they might jump in a car to obtain, how many trips they make in their car, and what things they could purchase locally even if it means paying a little more.
She also said going car free could mean choosing a fun family outing like hiking at East Rock park instead of Sleeping Giant because it’s closer to home and doesn’t require starting up the car. That’s what Holmes and her family did on a recent weekend.
“I appreciate that kind of challenge,” she said. “We were already planning something outside. Why not take it to the next level and take this chance to connect where we live.”
SeeClickFix and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven continued their now three-year strong rivalry among medium sized organizations participating in the challenge. NHS employees managed to just squeak ahead of the folks at SeeClickFix in terms of active participants. But SeeClickFix employees bested NHS by preventing nearly .3 tons of CO2 from being emitted.
Among large organizations Yale University prevented the most greenhouse gas emissions, while City Hall employees had the most active participation. The top five individual participants in this year’s challenge are as follow:
Nancy Carraway, YNHH: 380 lbs/0.19 tons
Rebecca Rode, YNHH: 480 lbs./ 0.24 tons
Michael Strait, YNHH: 700 lbs/0.35 tons
Ava Reyna-Balsamo, YNHH: 800 lbs/ 0.4 tons
Christie Vezzola, Kapco Global: 1000 lbs/ 0.5tons