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Everyday Environmentalist

Car Shares

"Car shares can take approximately 17 personally owned vehicles off the road."

-Adrienne Egolf, Marketing Specialist for The Nature Conservancy in New York

By Adrienne Egolf

I love days when I don’t have to drive my car. Traffic, gas, and parking are stressful for me — as well as for the Earth, and using public transportation, biking and walking are much greener than using personal cars every day. But I have to admit that sometimes you really just need a car.

It would be lovely if I could use my feet, my bike or my MetroCard whenever I needed to get around. After all, about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. In the U.S., the average passenger car drives about 12,500 miles a year and emits 575 pounds of carbon.

But the fact remains that there are some trips that require more get up and go than my sneakers and subway routes have to offer. (Like that trip to Ikea, for the new bookshelf I’ve had my eye on.)

So, yes, I sometimes need a car. But who says I need one all the time?

Enter car-sharing programs, like ZipCar and I-GO. On most days — days when I’m commuting to work by train or getting around my neighborhood on foot — my carbon footprint remains happily vehicle-free. But on those days when only a hatchback will do, I can rent a shared car by the hour and pick it up from a local lot.

It’s a realistic answer to an increasingly common dilemma. Researchers say that by 2050, 70 percent of people on Earth will live in urban centers. Efficient, eco-friendly solutions like shared car programs will become even more viable as our population becomes more and more concentrated in cities.

I-GO estimates that each of its shared cars takes approximately 17 personally owned vehicles off the road. And ZipCar says that after joining the program, its average member drove less than 5,500 miles a year.

That is a lot less traffic on the road, a lot less carbon in the atmosphere — and a lot more convenient than riding your bike to Ikea.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy.

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