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KNOXVILLE—The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has won the coveted award for Outstanding Achievement for Commitment to Alternative Commuting. The award was presented at the annual Smart Trips award ceremony held September 13 at Latitude 35 on Market Square.

UT won by tallying the most points during the Smart Trips Commuter Challenge, effectively removing 36,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from the air. Collectively, competing businesses and individuals removed a total of 360,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from the air.

The Commuter Challenge is held annually between May and September to increase participation in and awareness of alternative transportation. Competing businesses earn points for the number of employees who each log at least twelve days of commuting to and from work by carpool, bicycle, walking, or riding the bus. UT competed in the category of businesses with more than 1,500 employees.

“The Commuter Challenge is Smart Trips’ biggest event all year, so it’s very important to us in helping spread the word, especially in the business community, about the various alternatives to driving alone,” said Alisa Ashouri, Smart Trips coordinator.

UT’s sustainability manager, Gordie Bennett, accepted the award with Mark Hairr, UT’s director of parking and transit services.

“It’s encouraging to see such strong support for alternative commuting among UT Knoxville faculty, staff, and students. Alternatives to driving can save time, save money, and improve our health,” Bennett said. In addition to the award, UT’s Challenge winners also won a pizza and cupcake party from Tomato Head and Magpies Bakery.

The award is the second UT has won at the annual Smart Trips award ceremony. In 2010, the university brought home the Green Spirit Award for its overall community spirit and having the highest number of employees registered for the Commuter Challenge.

Smart Trips is a regional organization that promotes alternatives to driving alone and helps commuters find carpool partners and bike and transit buddies, save money on gas, and help the environment. For more information on the Smart Trips program, visit http://www.knoxsmarttrips.org/. For more information on UT Knoxville’s Office of Sustainability, visit http://environment.utk.edu/.