The CarFree Challenge, an annual tradition in the Elm City, kicked off its fourth annual monthlong campaign on Aug. 31 to encourage more sustainable methods of transportation.

Launched in 2014, the CarFree Challenge is spearheaded by goNewHavengo, a regional sustainable transportation coalition that draws resources from the city government, the Yale Office of Sustainability and local public transportation providers such as CT Rides. Individuals as well as organizations and businesses can register for the challenge, and participants can earn points towards shopping discounts by logging trips taken via any transportation methods alternative to single car occupancy, such as biking, walking or carpooling. Winners from both categories receive prizes offered by local restaurants and amusement venues. 

Since its inception, the challenge has seen a considerable increase in participation and a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted throughout the challenge month, said Brianne Mullen, a Yale sustainability office program associate. Nearly 700 individuals and 25 organizations took part in last year’s campaign compared to 47 individual and 11 organizational entries recorded in 2014. according to data from the challenge’s website.

“We are excited that the New Haven community is increasingly engaged in these efforts as well as the Yale community, as evidenced by our winning a challenge prize for the past two years,” Mullen said.

This September’s initiative draws support from local figures like Mayor Toni Harp, who spoke at the event’s launch party on Aug. 30. She lauded the persistent efforts of local environmental activist communities who promote awareness about reducing the city’s collective carbon footprint.

Harp further explained that despite its name, the challenge does not prohibit car use but rather acts as an incentive so that people are more ecologically conscious of their traveling methods. She added that carpooling with even just one other rider will reduce the total carbon emissions by half.

“Let’s advance that legacy over this next month by embracing the goals of the Go New Haven Go Car Free Challenge,” Harp said at the launch event. “And let’s recommit ourselves to a New Haven with cleaner air, healthier residents and a more sustainable transportation system going forward.”

David Malinowski, a technology and research specialist at the Yale Center for Language Study, said he has been commuting by non-engine-driven vehicles for the past four years and has participated in the CarFree challenge since last year.

Malinowski commutes daily to work by scooter, which takes only around five minutes. He added that his commute time would significantly increase if he chose to drive because he would have to take into account the time it takes to find parking spaces nearby.

He said he enjoys the new bike lanes the city has constructed in the Downtown area, a decision that helps soothe the uneasiness some feel with New Haven’s urban car culture. He echoed Harp’s sentiment and admitted that cutting off driving completely is hard for his co-workers, many of whom have children to tend to.

“You see tinkering in the edges,” Malinowski said. “I make a point in riding in dedicated bike lanes.”

GoNewHavengo hosts various other initiatives throughout the year, such as New Haven Bike Share and PARK[ing] Day, to raise awareness about an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Amy | @Amy_23_Cheng