October 5, 1998
Volume 51, No. 7
Summer of 1999 lays groundwork for next year's ozone season
With Emory's first official "Ozone Summer" now behind us, just how well did the campus do in its efforts to help Atlanta stay within federally mandated air-quality standards?
Along with many other private companies around the city, Emory participated in the Voluntary Ozone Action Program (VOAP), coordinated by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and inspired by Gov. Zell Miller's mandate that all state agencies reduce the number of commuter vehicles by 20 percent. VOAP participants agreed to try to match that mandate and also reduce ground-level ozone production through other means.
Emory launched its own multi-pronged program, "Hazy Days," to cut ozone, but the summer of 1998 really was more of a trial period for what lies ahead next year. Hazy Days attempted to reduce the number of cars on campus--e-mail, posters and red sleeves on parking deck arms notified commuters of upcoming Ozone Action Days (OADs)--but it was impossible to tell how well it worked because the University had nothing with which to compare its findings.
Cheryle Crumley, director of alternative transportation, said her office did counts of cars in the parking decks, but these figures will serve as a benchmark for comparison for 1999, when the entire "ozone season" of May 1 to Sept. 30 will be treated as an ozone action period.
"One of our goals is to see Georgia EPD look at this more as a seasonal issue and not an episodic issue," Crumley said, noting that EPD announced 35 action days over the season. "It's hard for people to change their commuting plan at the last minute. Very few people can bring up a carpool in 12 hours' time. If you can, then why not do it every day?"
For its part, Facilities Management prohibited the refueling of its vehicles on OADs and attempted to limit the use of small, two-cycle engines in machines such as lawnmowers. Plant Operations Director Al Herzog said he plans to meet with other VOAP participants to find out other options that might be viable for next year.
Aside from commuter options such as carpooling, vanpooling and MARTA participation, Emory also addressed re-emphasized its support for flexible work hours and telecommuting options wherever possible. President Bill Chace has often voiced his support for these programs.
"Telecommuting is good anytime it can be employed--summer, school year, any moment," Chace said. "I am wholly in favor of these options, but I leave it to the local supervisor to deem when and how they be used."
Not every department, or even every employee within a department, is able to work out a flexible hours or tele-commuting schedule. But Human Resources does have guidelines for those that can and will help department heads and supervisors work out the details, including overtime compensation issues. HR did not require departments to give notification of trying these options, but HR Vice President Alice Miller said many did.
"We had two or three dozen departments trying flex-time over the summer, and we still have about a dozen departments doing it now on a limited basis," Miller said. "We're very supportive of it." She estimated that several hundred employees on the main campus participated in some kind of flex-time program.
Telecommuting can be more problematic than flex-time for two reasons, Miller said. First there is the question of supervision, or the lack of it, when an employee telecommutes; and second, the employee's home computer must be adequate to do the job. She said the flex-time arrangements that departments tried varied from altering the times of daily eight-hour shifts to working four-day weeks of longer hours each day.
But again, as desirable as it may sound to work four-day weeks, the reality is that some jobs at Emory simply do not lend themselves to such a schedule. "What we can't do is have flex-time that would endanger a particular mission," Chace told an Employee Council Town Hall audience this summer. "But the mission itself would decide that."