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Clif Bar Puts the Pedal Power of our People to a Purpose

Clif Bar has always been steeped in bike culture. Our founder Gary Erickson came up with the idea for the Clif Bar energy bar while on a 175-mile bike ride. We train on bikes. We race them. We ride them for fun. Some of us commute with them. Now, during National Bike Month in May 2017, we’re harnessing the pedal power of spin bikes in our headquarters’ gym to generate electricity.

It’s believed we’re the first corporate gym to do so.

We partnered with Rock The Bike of Oakland, Calif., to retrofit 12 spin bikes in our gym with generators that capture the energy our employees create while they cycle and wire it back into the electrical grid through standard wall sockets.

“Our employees are using pedal power to help keep the lights on at Clif Bar,” says Joe Phillips, one of the personal trainers at our headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. “They’re generating a modest amount of electricity, but it’s a unique way to help address climate change and start global cooling.”

A daily spin class with eight to 10 Clif employees will generate about 300 kilowatt hours per year, enough energy to power an average American home for 10 days.1

Clif employees also will learn about conserving energy and the environmental benefits of cycling. A large LED sign wired to the bikes keeps an ongoing tally of the total energy our riders generate year-round. A meter on the sign also shows in real time how the power our riders are generating compares with the power needed to run a cell phone, laptop computer, coffee maker and electric car.

“We hope the power comparisons will help Clifsters think more about their energy use,” Joe explains. “Some may be inspired to make changes at home. Others may be inspired to commute to work on their bikes. Regardless, we’re pretty sure everyone will have a little more fun maintaining their health and wellness.”

Josh Weiss, Clif Bar’s senior manager of corporate finance, already commutes to work three days a week on his bike. But he’s still jazzed about the new spin bike setup. “When 12 of us are pedaling and the sign shows we’re only generating enough power to run a coffee maker, it not only makes me more conscious of how much power is consumed by even small devices, but also the power of collective action — what if not just 12 people, but thousands or millions of people made even small lifestyle changes, what an impact we all could make.”

Josh also says the fun of activating the power meter and kilowatt hour tally on the sign may inspire his colleagues as well. “It certainly could attract new people to our spin classes and may help give them the confidence to take their cycling outside for the first time. That confidence might even convert some casual cyclists into bike commuters.”

Power-generating spin bikes are just one aspect of Clif Bar’s creative approach to running a different kind of business — one based on Five Aspirations, or bottom lines, including Sustaining the Planet. Clif Bar offers a variety of incentives to encourage employees to use alternative modes of transportation, including bikes.

Bike-related benefits include $500 toward the purchase of a commuter bike, a rewards program for commuting to work by bike (with incentives like massages), and free bike repair and safety workshops.

Hopping on a bike to commute to work helps each of us have an impact on cooling the planet, Joe notes. Transportation is responsible for almost 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.2 A bike commuter who rides four miles to work each day avoids creating about 2,000 pounds of carbon emissions annually, or nearly 5 percent of an average American’s carbon footprint.3

“When we get out of our cars and ride our bikes, we’re taking positive steps for the planet and our personal fitness,” Joe says. “That’s a pretty solid combination.”