Ready to share a car with the neighborhood?

July 30, 2010

We hear a lot about global warming and how driving is one of the major factors contributing to it. Cars & driving are deeply entrenched in American life, whether it’s anticipating your first driver’s license, summertime driving through back roads with the windows down & music blaring, or simply getting to and from work.

But, all of our driving adds up. According to the Environmental Defense study, The Climate Impact of America’s Automobiles, personal vehicles in the US emit roughly 10% of the global CO2 emissions that come from fossil fuels. In 2004, this came out to 314 million metric tons. That much carbon could fill a coal train 55,000 miles long; that’s enough to circle the Earth twice. Ah, nothing like a frightening statistic.

There are lots of ways to cut back on driving, from carpooling to using public transportation. However there are times that life is hard without a car. Activities like moving, taking a weekend trip, or simply grocery shopping often require the use of a car.

A movement that’s been gaining momentum recently is car sharing. Companies such as ZipCar, U Car Share, HourCar, and others have made it possible to ditch one (or perhaps all) of your cars, and only use one when you really need it. Zipcar.com includes some interesting tidbits on the impact of car sharing:

  • “Every Zipcar takes 15-20 personally-owned vehicles off the road.”
  • “After joining Zipcar, 90% of members drove 5,500 miles or less per year.”
  • “More than 32 million gallons of crude oil left in the ground total—or 219 gallons are saved per Member.”

The impact of car sharing isn’t just positive for the environment. Zipcar also claims that their members can save over $500 per month by sharing instead of owning a car. When you consider that maintenance, insurance, and even gas are included in the membership, this may not be too far off. Don’t believe it? Try out their calculator to test the theory yourself.

Car sharing companies and co-ops are popping up in urban centers all over the country, and most have the basics in common:

  1. Reserve your car online
  2. Unlock the car with your personal card or key (or phone!)
  3. Drive away
  4. Return to a specified car-share location before your reservation time expires
  5. Leave car as clean as you found it

Pretty simple, huh? Do your kindergarten teacher proud and give sharing a chance.

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