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Employees in Germany are Skipping Their Cars and Biking to Work Instead


Employees who biked to work for 20 days, or more than 124 miles (200 km) pose with their hard-earned boxes of produce. The fresh fruits and vegetables are supplied by the Loewe Foundation, a local non-profit that creates work opportunities for handicapped individuals.

More than 10 years ago, a health insurance company in Lueneburg, Germany ran a campaign encouraging locals to use bicycles to commute instead of cars. A few Nordson employees participated at the time and enjoyed it so much that they launched an annual Bike to Work initiative for their team. After that, the event gained life of its own – growing in popularity each year and inspiring lasting changes to the team's lifestyle, culture and even their facility. 

From May through August during this year's event, 45 employees biked a total of 16,330 miles (26,280 km) on their commutes. Timo Meyer, Customer Project Engineer, organizes the initiative each year.

"I participated in the beginning and saw there was potential, so I asked around to see if this was something Nordson wanted to support," Timo explained. Primarily, the initiative is aimed at reducing traffic in the city and helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions from cars.

On that front, the team's impact has been significant. Since 2011, they've biked a grand total of 89,482 miles (144,007 km), equaling a 25-ton reduction in carbon emissions. Some participants use traditional bicycles, and others use eBikes that provide an adjustable amount of power to the rider.

Sustainability isn't the only reason employees get involved, though.  Germany2

"For me, it's because I love chocolate," laughed Claudia Schmidt, Language Support Assistant. "I had a conversation with my doctor, and I decided to combine exercise and my way to work. Now it's how I get to work every day and it's easier to fit exercise into my schedule."

She means every day, too. Claudia started biking to work during the annual event, but now bikes all year – rain or shine, even in the snow.

"You have to be careful, but it works," she said. "Sometimes after a rainy day I come in with a smile on my face and everybody says, 'poor Claudia!' but I don't feel that way. I change my clothes and feel very fresh, very good."

Rainer Fehlhaber, Team Leader, noted biking also has financial advantages.

"Riding my eBike saves fuel," he said. "You can take what you would have spent and save it or spend it on something else."

"I spend my money on chocolate," Claudia joked, then added "There's a social aspect to biking, too. I often meet colleagues on my way and we say hello and talk. People sometimes ask, 'how do you know this?' and it's because I heard it first while biking."

Adding more motivation, Bike to Work participants can win prizes like gift cards or entries into a raffle for a day off work.

The top prize takes commitment to earn, though, and employees hold each other accountable. Those who bike to work for 20 days, or more than 124 miles (200 km), get fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to them at work. The Loewe Foundation, a local non-profit that creates work opportunities for handicapped individuals, supplies the produce.

"We partnered with the Loewe Foundation three years ago," Timo said. "I'm really happy Nordson supports this. It's been really exciting growing together and supporting them."

As the number of employees biking to work grows, the facility is adapting too. This year, Nordson funded the facility's third bike rack. Each rack includes a covered, lighted shelter. Employees who bike to work can take advantage of a central air supply for their tires and a toolkit for minor bike repairs, too. Plus, there are electrical hook-ups so eBike riders can charge their batteries.

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Nordson recently funded a third bike rack for the Lueneburg, Germany facility since the population of employees biking to work regularly has grown significantly. 

The Bike to Work initiative has inspired employees to bike more outside of work, too. This year, the team competed a community effort called "Biking in the City" that challenged locals to bike everywhere they could for 21 days. Nordson's team was among the top ten after biking 2,481 miles (3,993 km). 

"For anybody who isn't sure about biking to work, I always encourage them to try it one day per week and see how it goes," Timo said. "I would be proud if other people and other Nordson facilities could look at us and see what's possible, and try biking to work too."