Since our service as AmeriCorps VISTA members started in August 2012, we've had the great pleasure of working with the Alliance for Community Transformations (ACT) on public health initiatives in southern Bennington County. ACT is a coalition comprised of health advocates, leaders, local businesses, and community members. We have enjoyed our time at our site, Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) and working with ACT members on projects focused on making the community a healthier place.

This month, we are partnering with Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) to help promote Way to Go. Way to Go is an annual event organized by Go Vermont, Vermont Agency of Transportation that challenges businesses, organizations, and individuals to find new modes of transportation for one week. This year, Way to Go is May 13 - 17.

We are especially excited for this event because of the double health benefit of participating. There are obvious health impacts of using different modes of transportation for one week. By biking or walking to and from work, you add more physical activity to your day. Carpooling provides more social interaction which can improve your mood and reduce stress. In addition to those positive health impacts, this challenge also reduces carbon pollution and improves the air quality for everyone in the community.

You may be thinking that one week of using alternative transportation will not make a huge difference. Yet, this is not a challenge you are taking on alone.


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In 2012, Way to Go had over 3,800 participants throughout the state. The efforts saved 326,754 miles in a vehicle and about $73,500 spent on gasoline. This resulted in approximately 285,000 pounds of carbon pollution saved. Together, a huge impact can be made.

The goal of Way to Go 2013 is to reduce 500,000 pounds of carbon pollution. Organizations, businesses, and individuals can join the effort at http://www.waytogovt.org/. You can choose to bike, walk, use public transportation, carpool/vanpool, telecommute, or use a renewable vehicle. In support of Way to Go, Green Mountain Express has designated Tuesday, May 14 as a free-ride day for all regularly scheduled routes.

A Carbon Cup award will be given to one winning K-12 school, four organizations, and one community. Way to Go has partnered with Safe Routes to School to encourage students to walk and bike to and from school. Winning organizations must have strong participation and noteworthy savings in carbon pollution. Organizations will be broken into three categories based on their size. Sign up today, challenge a nearby business, and bring the Carbon Cup to Southern Vermont!

There are plenty of other chances to win great prizes. Raffles are going on now and will continue through the week-long challenge. Sign up as soon as possible to increase chances of winning!

We have joined Way to Go by signing up through SVHC, which is a participating organization. While we are not able to walk every day because of off-site meetings, we are carpooling together and will be saving 15 pounds of carbon for the week.

Veronica Ariel and Nicole Rau are AmericaCorps VISTA members serving at Southwestern Vermont Health Care. "Health Matters" is a weekly column from Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care. To learn more about SVHC, visit svhealthcare.org or our Facebook page.