Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
To gain feedback from the Department’s employees on alternative commuting options and other workplace flexibilities that the Department could offer to reduce commuter emissions in the future.
We have conducted Internet-based employee surveys to develop GHG emission estimates from employee commuting and to solicit employee input since 2010. The commuter survey results contribute to the emission estimates reported in the Department’s Sustainability/Energy Scorecard, which is submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality.
Kristen J. Sarri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management and Budget, and the Department’s Chief Sustainability Officer, announced that the Department will conduct this year’s survey in October 2016. The General Services Administration (GSA) administers the survey on behalf of the Department.
Each Department employee should receive an e-mail invitation to participate in the survey. Individual employee survey results are confidential; the Department will not receive individually identifiable information from GSA. Employee participation in the survey is critical for us to assess how we are doing in reducing GHG emissions from employee commuting.Thanks in advance for doing your part to complete your survey by the close of the survey period, Friday, October 28, 2016.
If you have questions about this year’s survey, or simply want to know more about it, we encourage you to take a look at the Employee Commuter Survey - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which provide additional helpful information on the commuter survey. These FAQs were developed based on employee questions and feedback received during past commuter surveys. The FAQs provide responses to questions related to the survey invitations, confidentially of employee responses, the survey methodology, and more.
Employee participation in the commuter survey is critical; the estimated employee commuter emission levels derived from the commuter survey makes it possible for the Department to complete our GHG emissions inventory, which is used to calculate our total GHG emissions. Commuter emissions are one of several components that determine the Department’s total scope 3 GHG emissions.
In FY 2015, we achieved a 22.8 percent reduction in the Department’s overall scope 3 GHG emissions, compared to the FY 2008 baseline. The Department was able to exceed its overall scope 3 GHG emissions goal for FY 2015 despite a small increase in the total daily miles commuted by employees between FY 2014 and FY 2015, as shown in the following table and graph.
The Department has reduced GHG emissions from employee commuting since FY 2010. As shown in the following table and graph, total annual GHG emissions from employee commuting decreased by 28 percent in FY 2015 and the average GHG emissions per Department employee also decreased by 19 percent in FY 2015 in comparison to the FY 2010 baseline.
% Change FY 2010 - FY 2015
Miles Commuted Daily by Department Employees
Total Annual GHG Emissions from Employee Commuting (MTCO2e)
Average Number of Miles Commuted Daily per Department Employee
Average GHG Emissions per Department Employee (MTCO2e)
* MTCO2e = Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
To the credit of our employees, the Department received numerous inquiries about what employees could do on an individual basis to reduce their GHG emissions, as well as questions about what the Department is doing to reduce its GHG emissions and increase sustainability.
What can I do to reduce my GHG emissions?
Commuting is only one source of GHG emissions; numerous other daily activities also result in GHG emissions. Below are some suggestions:
Commuting - The answer to how you can reduce the GHG emissions associated with your commute is not straight forward. This is because the options available to the Department’s employees vary depending on a number of factors, including where you live, where you work, your particular bureau and job responsibilities, the availability of public transportation, etc.
The way you get to and from work is a personal choice. In some of the Department’s more remote locations, four-wheel drive trucks or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be the only viable commuting option. However, there are a number of potential options employees may consider, where appropriate.
Specifically, the use of public transportation, bicycling, teleworking, or alternative work schedules may be possible options to reduce your commuter emissions, compared to driving alone in a car, truck, or SUV every workday:
Public Transportation/Bicycling - The Department offers transportation subsidy benefits to employees who use public transportation or a bicycle to get to work.
General information on these programs is available here. Your bureau or office may have additional guidelines or protocols associated with applying for these benefits. It is recommended that you contact your office or bureau transit subsidy coordinator to inquire about your organization’s specific application process.
Telework - If you can perform the functions of your job remotely, you may wish to engage your supervisor in a conversation about whether telework could be an option for you. General information on telework is available here.
Alternative work schedules (AWS) or compressed work schedules (CWS) - Some jobs within the Department may be able to accommodate an AWS or CWS. This is an arrangement where you complete your required 80 hours per pay period in less than the traditional 10 workdays, thus reducing the number of days you commute to work. Again, you should engage your supervisor in a conversation about whether an AWS or CWS could be a viable option for you.
Beyond Commuting - As mentioned earlier, the majority of the actions we perform everyday result in the production of GHGs. If you are interested in learning more about what you can do to reduce your overall carbon footprint, and perhaps save some money in the process, check out the Department’s Employee Green Guide.
What is the Department doing to reduce its GHG emissions and increase sustainability?
In short, a lot.
In 2010, the Department established its Sustainability Council. The Sustainability Council is led by the Department’s Chief Sustainability Officer (the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management and Budget) and includes representatives from all the Department’s bureaus and applicable offices. Through the collaborative environment created by this structure, the Department’s bureaus and offices come together to develop strategies and actions to reduce GHG emissions and meet other sustainability goals.
For more specifics about the strategies and actions taken to reduce the Department’s GHG emissions, you can look through the narratives for Goal 1 of our annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan submissions. The narratives for the remaining goals provide information on other sustainability efforts that are also addressed through the Sustainability Council.
While the Sustainability Council provides the collaborative forum to discuss the strategies and actions necessary to meet the Department’s goals, the Department’s bureaus and offices turn these discussions into the required action to achieve the goals.
For example, the National Park Service’s Green Parks Plan sets ambitious goals for GHG emission reductions, much of which is achieved through actions that its Climate Friendly Parks member parks address in their climate action plans. The National Park Service is also aggressively addressing other sustainability issues, such as reducing energy and water use. You can learn more about these efforts on the National Park Service’s Sustainable Operations and Climate Change website.
Like the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) has set an ambitious goal for carbon neutrality by 2020, as outlined in the Service's Carbon Footprint Baseline Report. Additionally, the Service is working to improve GHG emissions data collection to get a more in-depth look at opportunities for further reductions. Annually a memorandum is sent to the Service Directorate communicating our sustainability performance and the need for data.