Car Shares: Great for the Environment, Great for your Wallet

While it may not always be the case, very often you’ll find that making a concerted effort to lessen your impact on the environment fits hand in hand with that more often sought after goal; saving money.

One area, where this correlation is at its most pronounced is transportation. According to the World Resources Institute, emissions caused by transportation account for as much as 13.5% of the global total. This figure is reflected in the way we in the west arrange our finances, with the average American spending roughly 18% of everything they earn on the purchase and maintenance of cars, a figure which obviously doesn’t factor in how much the nation spends on other, similarly fossil fuel-intensive modes of transport.

Part of the reason for this high cost is that, economically speaking, petroleum is thought of as being subject to inflexible demand. That is to say, companies can charge high prices for fuel, and people will pay up rather than switch to an alternative way of living, believing that they have no choice.

Of course, this isn’t true. If we were determined, most of us probably could live without cars, though, of course, this may be highly impractical. But the simple fact is that you don’t need to give up car journeys to reduce emissions. We can very easily lower the number of vehicles on the road, even if everybody made the exact same number of journeys as before.

Car shares, allow for huge financial savings and stand to help rationalise the way the world’s increasingly scarce resources are being used. On average, cars on our roads carry less than two passengers per journey. By pooling resources and pushing that average up, people stand to save money as well as cut back on needless emissions.

Getting a car pool together shouldn’t even be particularly difficult as there are many instances where the commuters stuck behind each other in a long line of traffic are all heading to the same place. In certain urban areas, for example, 24% of all traffic is dedicated to either dropping off or picking up students from the local school.

In such a situation, neighbours could very easily halve the levels of traffic on the road by agreeing to carpool in pairs. Indeed, as the traffic is attached to an institution such as a school, who have data on where everyone lives, figuring out the most efficient possible car pool would not be particularly difficult, and the same goes for any number of similar situations, most obviously the morning commute for co-workers living in the same area.

There is of course no need to limit the car pool to those who own a car. Anyone willing to contribute their fare share to the costs of the pool could get involved, as there’s no real need for more than one car.

Expanding on this logic, you soon arrive at the model of joint ownership, which offers a more eco friendly, more cost effective way of having private transport available for those who know that they do not constantly need a car available.

Many businesses have already been set up to provide people the chance to join ‘car clubs’ where a number of people pay for access to a number of cars whenever they need them, saving on the costs of ownership and reducing the number of vehicles needed to serve the needs of their community.

If you already make the effort to use your car as little as possible, you could stand to save thousands from entering into a car share or car pool arrangement with other likeminded people around you. Talk to your local school, your employer and your neighbour as well as looking online to see where opportunities are already available, and where you might be able to create them.

This post was written by Steve Waller who runs ‘Green Steve’ a blog documenting his personal journey to live a carbon neutral existence. He writes on a number of green issues and tries to simplify the often overly-complicated world of environmentalism.

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