The U.S. census found that over 75% of Americans drive alone to work each day.[i] In Nashville, that number is even higher at 84%. With approximately 100 new residents moving to Nashville each day[ii], commutes are steadily becoming synonymous with increasing traffic, excess carbon emissions, and longer drive times. With many Nashvillians sitting in gridlocked traffic on highways, some may be wondering if better options exist.
If you caught Socket’s previous blog about Nashville Connector (https://nashconnector.org/) you know there’s a great new tool to help connect commuters with a better way to get to work. Read more about Nashville Connector, and all it has to offer, here. There are several alternatives to driving, such as biking, walking, or taking public transportation to a desired location, but one of the simplest alternatives is carpooling.
Carpooling helps reduce traffic, reduce carbon emissions, and creates an opportunity to socialize. But what if, in addition to all these benefits, drivers could actually get paid to carpool? A new mobile app called Hytch Rewards (Hytch) offers cash payments to individuals who carpool together.[iii]
Step 1: Carpoolers download the free app, which will connect to their phone’s contacts.
Step 2: Whenever two or more people are ready to carpool, users can open the app and invite participants to the Hytch ride.
Step 3: Once the other users have connected to the Hytch ride, the app creates a “halo” around the members of the vehicle using GPS tracking, and then the ride begins.
Step 4: At the end of the ride, the Hytch app calculates the impact of the users’ ride and displays it on the app’s dashboard.
The dashboard of the Hytch app shows users how many rides they’ve taken and the total number of miles they’ve travelled while carpooling. It also shows users the total amount of money they’ve earned and the total number of trees they’ve saved. For example, my dashboard (pictured below) reads that, since downloading the app in February, I’ve taken 105 trips with Hytch, travelled 1,957 miles, saved almost 40 trees, and have earned $39.49.[iv]
Author Kelsi Lewis's Hytch dashboard
The Hytch app is able to offer cash rewards to carpoolers because it partners with organizations that support their mission of reducing traffic and carbon emissions. With Hytch’s many partners, such as the Nashville Predators, Nissan, Sprint, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Lipscomb University, and Goodwill, Hytch is able to create the cash reward pool available for its users.
Hytch also provides great opportunities for users to give back to the community. Once a user has earned a minimum of ten dollars, they may decide to “cash out,” or donate their earnings to Goodwill’s Wheels to Work program or to the Citizens’ Climate Education project.
The Hytch app aims to reduce drivers’ carbon footprints by getting them out of single passenger cars and into shared rides. Fewer cars on the road means less greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air. According to the Hytch website, the record number of Hytch participants in a single ride was 21 people.[v] That’s a lot of avoided pollution!
Metro employees and Nashville residents and visitors can take part in Hytch today. In a world of increasing traffic, frustration, and carbon emissions, this program provides a way for drivers to grab a friend and “Hytch” their way to a fuller wallet and a greener planet.
By Kelsi Stubblefield Lewis, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Fall 2018
Come on out for the 65th annual Nashville Christmas Parade on Saturday morning, December 1st. For the first time, Socket will be marching in the parade, alongside Metro Public Works' adorable mascot, Curby. Come enjoy this family-friendly, free annual tradition!
More information at http://nashvillechristmasparade.com/
By Kelsi Stubblefield Lewis, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Fall 2018
Most people in the United States drive to work alone every day. In the 2013 U.S. census, it was found that 76.4% of Americans travelled to work each day by driving in a single passenger vehicle. [i] For Nashville, and for Nashville’s ever expanding downtown area, the number of lone drivers is even higher.
“84% of downtown Nashville workers drive to work alone,” Nashville Connector Program Director, Miranda Clements said. Clements not only spoke about the current number of drivers, but also about the future of Nashville roads, as well. With approximately one hundred people moving to Nashville each day, the total number of drivers on Nashville roads is projected to rise exponentially. [ii]
“Nashville is growing.” Clements said. “The population is projected to increase by one million in the next twenty-five years, and downtown Nashville is changing as a result,” Clements said. She continued on to say that, consequently, traffic is increasing steadily, “what used to be a fifteen minute commute is now at least a thirty minute commute.”
To accommodate Nashville’s projected growth, Clements said, many building developments are in the pipeline. If all projected downtown developments come into existence, then 40,000 additional workers would be added into the downtown area, and downtown traffic could increase by as much as 45% over current levels.
With traffic already rising steadily, the addition of 40,000 or more cars could mean more stress and significantly longer commute times for many Nashville residents.
But Clements wants to inform Nashville natives that there may be better options out there. In fact, in a world of increasing traffic, there are many alternative commute options that are beneficial to mental health, physical health, and environmental health, and a new initiative called Nashville Connector, run out of the Metro Nashville Planning Department, can help Nashvillians find the commute that is right for them.
“Nashville Connector is the one stop shop for commute options.” Clements said. “We are a new resource for Metro Nashville to connect people to existing transportation options other than driving alone.” The Nashville Connector website houses a stockpile of commute information, including bus routes, bike paths, ride share information, and train schedules. Nashville Connector’s tagline is ‘Plan a Better Commute’ and the program provides a full list of resources to help Nashville residents achieve this goal.
Alternative transportation options such as carpooling, riding the bus, biking, or walking, have tremendous benefits for traffic congestion, for an individual’s health, and for the environment. “As driving becomes more expensive, less convenient, and more stressful, people find that their health and productivity go up if they’re taking other ways to get to work, such as transit,” Clements said, “there are also financial benefits. It costs an average of ten thousand dollars a year to own and operate a car, so a family or an individual can save a lot of money.”
Clements went on to say that she understands how the idea of switching to alternative forms of transportation can be overwhelming, so, to assist, Nashville Connector is hosting The Commuter Challenge this month, October 22-28. “The commuter challenge is a one-week challenge where we are asking people to try another commute other than driving to work alone, and that can be anything,” Clements said, “people can take the bus, ride their bike, walk, carpool, vanpool, or they can work at home for a day.
The week-long Commuter Challenge is hoping to foster a friendly competition between downtown employers, as each business attempts to get the highest number of employees to take alternative commutes for one business day. “After the commute we will recognize the businesses with the highest participation,” Clements said, “but people can also sign up as an individual.” Businesses and individuals across Nashville, including the Department of General Services Sustainability Division, are participating in the weeklong event.
The goal of the commuter challenge is to ‘break the ice,’ and get commuters to explore their possibilities for alternative transportation. “This is an easy way for people to try some other option.” Clements said. “If they don’t want to take the bus or are too far from the bus stop, then they can grab some friends and carpool. We just want to expose people to the different options out there.”
In an ever expanding city, increasing traffic means longer commutes, higher carbon dioxide emissions, and more stress for Nashville residents, and the need for change is apparent. “We feel that ‘one person-one car’ is not the future of downtown Nashville,” Clements said, and Nashville Connector wants to provide Nashville with the best commute options for each budget, location, and ability.
"We believe that knowledge is key," Clements said, "we feel that what Nashvillians need is encouragement and information, a service that Nashville Connector is ready to provide."
For more information about Nashville Connector, alternative transportation options, or to sign up for the Commuter Challenge, visit nashconnector.org.
By Kelsi Stubblefield Lewis, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Fall 2018
Years ago, a little girl with a messy ponytail trekked through the woods with her friends, each of them clutching a trash bag in one hand. As they walked with their moms, the girls chatted and casually picked up abandoned cups, cans, and bottles. Eventually the trees grew sparse, and as the lake’s edge got closer the girls began to find empty bait boxes and sunscreen bottles, as well.
It was “Lake Cleanup Day,” an annual tradition that everyone took very seriously, but none more so than the girl with the ponytail. When the moms would glance away, they would turn back to see that she had run off to check the edges of their route or had fallen behind combing through shrubs making sure that they had found all the trash. At the end of the day, the girl with the ponytail turned in her big bag of litter to the collection table with an equally big grin.
On the drive home, she looked out the window at the sparkling lake and the towering trees. She thought about the deer, the foxes, and the fish that lived there. She thought about the families that hiked, swam, and fished there, too. She liked to think that because of something she had done, life was a little bit better for all of them. She felt good. She felt like Superwoman.
My dad and I hiking through the "Garden of the Gods" in Illinois
That little girl in the ponytail grew up in a small town next to that lake and those trees. She went to high school and joined the Outdoorsmen’s Club, where she learned how to better protect the nature that was very much still a part of her. As she got older, the girl found a new passion in reading and writing. Suddenly, her weekends were filled with not only family hikes, but with books and stories, as well.
When she turned eighteen, the girl decided that she wanted to move to Nashville and study writing at Lipscomb University.
That girl was me! I did move to Nashville in 2015, and continued my journey to find “green” again.
As an English major, I was a student with a serious love of language, both reading it and composing it. I loved my classes and took pride in my work, but throughout my time at Lipscomb, I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. When I thought about the future, or when I tried to picture what I wanted to do with my life, it was as if the picture wouldn’t quite come into focus, like one, tiny dial hadn’t quite clicked into place.
I fought with this feeling until last year, my junior year of college, when I walked in to one of my general education classes. As I sat down, our professor announced that a guest speaker would be presenting that day.
The speaker announced that she was a professor from our university’s Department of Environmental Sustainability. She had come that day to tell us about some exciting new ways that people were saving our planet’s resources. As she spoke, I hung on to every word. She said that our waters, our air, our land, and our trees were in danger, but there were so many amazing things that people were doing to help, and we could do them, too. For a moment, I was the little girl with the messy ponytail again.
A few days later, I declared my minor in Environmental Sustainability, and something (that felt a little like a tiny dial) clicked into place.
Since that click, I have had some incredible opportunities. I have studied environmental law, as well as many sustainable practices in the areas of agriculture, food, energy, and transportation. I found myself particularly interested in a sustainable agriculture practice called silvopasture, and I was able to present research on it at Lipscomb University’s Student Scholars Symposium this past spring.
My Scholars Symposium poster presentation on silvopasture, an agricultural practice that combines forestry and grazing
I have also worked with Lipscomb’s chapter of The Food Recovery Network, where we take leftover food from our university’s cafeteria and donate it to local nonprofits. I feel fortunate to have also had the opportunity to intern with The Nashville Food Project and to currently be interning with Socket, the Metro Department of General Services’ sustainability outreach program.
Me cutting fruit in the prep room at The Nashville Food Project
When I think about all of these opportunities and how they have shaped me, I am always humbled to trace it back to that one small moment in class.
Looking towards the future, there are still no specifics, but what I do know is that the picture of my future, much like the picture of my past, is green. What I do know is that I want to spend my life doing something akin to picking up trash from my hometown lake; I want to do something that improves life for others in this world.
I’ve also come to accept that I’ll never save the world on my own. I’ll never be Superwoman, but that little girl in the messy ponytail still lives in me, and she’ll never stop trying.
Kelsi Lewis is the Fall 2018 intern for the Division of Sustainability.
She assists in coordinating the Division’s sustainability initiatives, including MetroConnect. She also assists in developing the division’s website and social media presence, and researching various sustainable practices as needed.
Before working with the Department of General services, Kelsi worked with a university organization devoted to recovering leftover food and donating it to local nonprofits to avoid waste. She also worked with a Nashville nonprofit that uses recovered food, donated food, and produce grown in urban gardens to provide healthy meals for people in need.
Kelsi is a senior at Lipscomb University where she studies English and Environmental Sustainability.
Socket loves a good romp outside as much as the next dog. But when Socket hears thunder or spots lightning, it’s tail between the legs and run for shelter! 2018 has been an extraordinarily deadly year for lightning strikes in Tennessee, with three deaths in less than two months, which is more than the previous 11 years combined.[i] Climate change is already affecting Tennesseans in far-reaching ways. Certain types of extreme weather events with links to climate change have become more frequent and/or intense.[ii]
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family from lightning? Follow these simple tips and precautions from Wikihow.com[iii] to be storm-safe this season.
Stay away from open fields or hilltops. Lightning often strikes the tallest object in the area, so avoid open fields or any hilltops. Look for a low-lying area like a valley or ravine, preferably obscured from the rain. Take refuge here until the storm passes. Crouch down with your heels touching and your head between your knees: this will make you a smaller target.
Do not lie down flat, and minimize your contact with the ground. Lightning can be fatal up to one hundred feet away from the initial strike.
Avoid swimming or watersports on rainy days. Check weather forecasts early in the day, and avoid going to a swimming pool, river, lake, or beach on rainy days. If you find yourself in open water during a thunderstorm, return to land immediately. If you are in a boat and cannot return to safety, drop anchor and crouch as low as possible.
Do not return to the body of water until thirty minutes after the last lightning strike. Any earlier, and the storm may not be over.
Indoor swimming is equally unsafe. Avoid all large bodies of water during a storm.
Don't stand near trees or tall isolated objects. Taller objects are more likely to be struck by lightning. Wherever you are, don't become the highest object anywhere. Avoid standing under trees in a lightning storm, and stay away from tall objects like light posts.
If you're in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
Umbrellas can increase your risk of getting hit if it is the tallest object in the area.
Avoid metal objects, like fences or exposed pipes. Metal conducts electricity, and you are much more likely to get hit. If you are carrying large metal objects, let them go. Small metal objects, like piercings or electronic devices, do not carry a large risk and are safe to hold.
Add a lightning rod to your roof. Lightning rods do not attract lightning but do provide a path of least resistance if lightning hits your house. This can prevent the electric current from damaging your home. Do not install a lightning rod yourself: find an electrician certified to install lightning systems.
Avoid bathing, showering, or using the sink as much as possible. During thunderstorms, lightning can travel through water pipes if it strikes your home. Do not bathe or shower until the storm has passed. If you have to use the sink, only do so in emergencies.
Turn off and stay away from wired electronics. Using electronic devices that plug into the wall is dangerous during a lightning storm. Avoid using TVs, washing machines, and corded phones during thunderstorms. Wireless electronics, like cell phones, are safe to use unless they are plugged into a charger.
Keep your windows closed. Avoid standing next to open windows or doors during a thunderstorm. Although rare, lightning can travel through windows during storms. Glass is a good insulator, so it is unlikely that the window will be struck if closed.
Run to your vehicle for safety. When your choice is either outdoors or inside a car, your car is always the safest option. If caught in a thunderstorm, remain inside your car until the storm passes. Close your windows, and put the top up in your convertible.
Place your hands in your lap. Most cars are safe from lightning, but the metal exterior or any metal objects are not safe to touch. If lightning strikes your car, the current will flow from the car's outer metal cage and into the ground below. Keep your hands in your lap and avoid leaning on the car doors or touching any exposed metal.
Don't handle the radio or your GPS system. Some portions of the current can travel through the wired areas in your car. Don't touch any of the vehicle's electrical systems during the car, including your radio, GPS system, or cell phone charger.
Pull to the side of the road in heavy storms. If driving in an outage area, pull over and turn on your hazard lights. Areas with outages are dangerous to drive in, especially if the traffic lights have shorted out. If you must continue traveling, treat intersections with shorted traffic signals as a four-way stop and take extra caution.
Socket says: Be sure to follow these practical tips to stay safe while enjoying the incredible beauty our city and state have to offer!
Department of General Services' Jerry Hall contributed to this blog.
By Maryam Muhammad, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Summer 2018
Before I was even born, it was decided that I would be vegetarian. Fast forward 20 years later and here I am, stirring turmeric and chia seed muffin mix with one hand (recipe below) and searching for the latest nutrition breakthroughs with the other.