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'Great Race for Clean Air' has companies competing to improve air quality

More than 50 businesses have registered for 2014 contest

Bay Area commuters will have an extra incentive to get off the road next month during a friendly competition designed to improve the region's air quality.

The "Great Race for Clean Air," sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is a competition between Bay Area companies that encourages employees commute using vanpools, carpools, public transit or bikes instead of driving solo, BAAQMD spokesman Tom Flannigan said.

"It gets employers and employees talking about changing up their commutes," Flannigan said.

Companies of all sizes from anywhere in the Bay Area can sign up. Past participants have included Facebook, Gilead Sciences, Kaiser Permanente, and the city of San Francisco.

More than 50 businesses have registered so far for the 2014 contest, Flannigan said.

"We've got big businesses, we've got small businesses, and we've got groups of employees that just want to make a difference," he said.

Individual commuters keep track of their "clean commute" days through an online journal, and are entered into weekly drawings for gift cards to local businesses.

At the conclusion of the Great Race, which runs from Saturday through April 30, winning teams will be chosen based on who had the highest CO2 savings and the highest average of clean-commute days logged per participant, Flannigan said.

Employers in five different size categories will be recognized for achieving the highest rate of employee participation.

According to the air district, since the Great Race started in 2010, thousands of participants have prevented more than 2,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the environment, which district officials said is roughly equivalent to removing 378 cars from Bay Area roads for an entire year.

Companies that want to join the Great Race can register online. More information about the program can be found at the website or by calling the Air Quality Management District, 415-749-4900.

— Bay City News Service

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