Net-Zero Hero: Melissa Rothrock

I'm helping make Austin Net-Zero by being a bus commuter!  

Austin is green and we all want to keep it that way! As a community, we’re committed to reaching the target of Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which will ensure a safe, healthy, vibrant Austin for many years to come. Here’s the story of how one person can make a difference.


Meet Melissa Rothrock, water planner at the Texas Water Development BoardShe also organizes the Austin Zero Waste Lifestyle Meetup. Melissa contributes to Austin's Net-Zero goal in several ways, including opting to ride the bus instead of driving her car. We spoke with Melissa on the benefits and challenges, and what advice she has for others looking to contribute to Austin's Net-Zero goal. Read more below. 


what inspired you to take action

The biggest push for me was the desire to dramatically lower my ecological footprint.  Not driving in stop-n-go traffic seemed like an obvious choice. Luckily, I found that there was a Flyer* bus stop that was a 5 minute walk from my house, and would drop me off right in front of the building where I work. You couldn’t ask for a more convenient bus route!

*Flyer buses are different than the normal routes because they have a lot fewer stops. 


how did you do it?

When I first started riding the bus, I bought my pass from the local HEB customer service center.  Now they’ve made it even easier with the CapMetro app.  I can look up bus routes, pick-up times, and purchase a bus pass.  I just show my phone screen to the bus driver – it’s paperless and zero waste! 


photos of melissa rothrock


what's been the toughest part?

If you get sick, have an emergency, or need to get home quickly, it can be challenging. But that happens so rarely, it’s actually a non-issue.


have there been any unexpected benefits?

How relaxing it is. It’s almost meditative. Most of the riders on the Flyer bus are commuting to work and also enjoy the quiet time to relax. When I’m on the bus, the traffic is nowhere in my mind. I’m thinking about more enjoyable things, reading my book, or chatting on iMessenger. By the time I get to work, I’m relaxed, in a better mood, and ready to get things done. The ride home is similar too – I’ll read or listen to music on the bus while I rest my eyes. By the time I get home, I feel happy and ready to interact with my family immediately.

When I drive to work alone, I’m engrossed in the traffic, frustrated with the rude drivers, the red lights, the left-turners….all of it.  And by the time I park and walk to my office, I already feel like I’ve battled the Western Front and need a “break” to regroup myself for the day.  It’s the same thing when I’m driving home. By the time I get home, I’m so exhausted that I generally go straight to my bedroom and for some alone-time before engaging with my family. 

I knew riding the bus would lower my eco-footprint, but I didn’t expect the significant advantages it would have to my state of mind.  I look forward to it now!


what advice do you have for others?

Go to and see if there’s a bus route that works for your schedule and location.  If so, I recommend trying it out for a week.  The app sells daily, weekly, and month passes.  If you aren’t convinced, then at least you tried!  I used to think commuting by bus was an inconvenient sacrifice for people that couldn’t afford a car.  Now I realize that these bus riders are helping Austin by being a part of a solution, not contributing to a problem.  It isn’t a sacrifice if it makes me a better person. It isn’t inconvenient if the bus takes me to work every day on time. I still have my car and drive to work for special occasions, but boy, it sure makes me appreciate when I get to ride the bus again!




Eliminating half of your car trips through biking, walking, or public transit can reduce your personal carbon footprint by over 30%. 




To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.


Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to