Many of us live in places with threatening levels of air pollution. The 2019 State of Global Air report showed that air pollution was the 5th highest mortality risk factor in 20171. In that year, 90% of the world's population was exposed to unhealthy air. And according to the EPA, transportation is largely responsible for this level of pollution which makes it important that we reduce polluting miles in our vehicles, and joining a car share is an excellent way to help cut air pollution.
Cutting our individual carbon footprint involves taking a range of small but significant steps. One key thing to consider when trying to reduce your negative impact on people and the planet is how you get around.
The journeys we make daily or regularly have the most impact over time. So making better choices when it comes to these journeys can make a big difference. Deciding to join a car share to cut air pollution is one thing we can do to reduce our harmful impact.
To understand why car sharing schemes can be such a good idea, we first need to look at the true costs involved in car ownership and driving regularly. In particular, those drives where we use petrol, diesel or non-electric vehicles.
Whereas electric vehicles are a vast improvement, it's worth noting that the benefit is predominantly derived where the electricity used to charge them is from renewable sources.
Furthermore, whereas progress is being made, electric vehicles are forecast to hit 7% of all vehicles on the road in the US by 2030. Most journeys in the US and elsewhere are still made using traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
Accordingly, when we analyze the environmental impacts of driving daily, e.g., our daily drives to work, it is easy to see why we need to make changes where we can.
When we drive daily:
Most people are now aware of the harm done by driving to work. But for many, traveling from A to B is still essential. So how can we limit our negative impact and cut the air pollution (and other forms of pollution) we create?
The best way to think about what you can do to cut air pollution is to consider all your options – from best to worst. We may not all be able to make ideal choices right away. But by working through all the potential solutions, we can make sure we choose the option that does the least harm while still enabling us to make a living and get where we need to go.
The best option of all is to cut down on the daily commute. If there is potential for you to work from home – at least some of the time – then this is something you should consider. Many companies are now more open to home working than they were before. If your current organization does not offer home working – but you feel you could do your job effectively from home – it could be worth discussing this with your boss.
If you run an online business (such as freelancing or eCommerce) and still commute daily, ask yourself if your reasons are valid enough. If you work out of a co-working space that is far away, find a closer option that you can walk or bike to.
If you live relatively close to where you work, then walking, jogging, or running to work is an excellent low-impact option. Of course, traveling in this way will take longer than traveling by car. But it could be time that you might have to spend exercising in another way or heading to the gym.
You could also consider getting a bicycle and cycling to work if it is not too far. Cycling is much quicker than walking and is also brilliant exercise, and allows you to travel without creating air pollution.
Of course, if you work too far from home to consider these options, you will have to look at other options.
Sometimes, eco-friendly public transport options are available. Taking a train, bus, or tram to work could be an excellent option if these are available in your area.
The problem is that public transportation in some areas can be expensive. It can cost far more financially than taking your car. And in some other places, the transport links simply aren't there.
If you cannot walk, cycle or take public transport, then you might be able to cut air pollution and reduce your negative impact by choosing a less polluting vehicle. An electric vehicle is an excellent option – as long as there are charge points available and as long as they are run on renewable energy sources. Though not entirely carbon neutral, an electric vehicle is far less polluting than traditional diesel or petrol vehicles.
But electric vehicles are still costly. Also, the infrastructure is not available globally.
If you have exhausted these other options, then a car share scheme could be your best option – at least for now. A car share scheme is a scheme that allows you to carpool with colleagues or other local workers to get to and from work. It can be with people you already know or with strangers (mindful of safety guidelines). This allows you to collectively cut congestion and reduce the number of cars on the road.
There is a range of car-sharing models to consider, but however you share your journeys, it's still worth the switch.
Car sharing is simply sharing a car between a number of people rather than exclusively for the owner's use.
Car sharing is similar to car rental in that people pay for access to a car for a short period. The key distinction is that the vehicle can be privately owned, and the duration is typically hours rather than by the day. With modern technology, car sharing in urban settings typically facilitates access to a car local to the driver based on availability. Other people may use the same car at different times.
This definition, in many ways, refers to the business model providing access to a vehicle. However, you'll also find the term used to refer to people sharing the same ride in a private or rented car, also referred to as carpooling, which we further explore below.
Traveling in a car with several other people will allow you all to reduce your impact. This happens when you ensure that there is only one vehicle, rather than several, on the road. This means reducing emissions and pollution of all the types described above.
When you join a car share scheme, you can also save energy on driving yourself daily. Your group may take turns with driving duty. Join a car share scheme, and you can also save money since you and the other members of the scheme can cut the cost of fuel. And if you are not driving your car every day, you'll save on the wear and tear on your vehicle too.
Car shares can provide significant cost savings due to sharing the costs of petrol, car parking, and other vehicle running costs. On average, in the UK, commuters that share cars save themselves £1,000 a year compared to driving alone2.
Car sharing can also help you avoid parking hassles, and provide social benefits. Having someone (or several people) to talk to might be enjoyable as you make your way to and from work. While with a car share scheme, you'll have to arrive and leave work at a set, pre-decided time. This can also be beneficial, as it can help you to develop a healthy work-life balance.
Your place of work is the first place to look for a car share scheme. If you work for a larger company, you may find that they already have a car share network in place. Look at company notice boards and within the company intranet to see whether there is any information.
It is also worthwhile speaking informally with your colleagues, to see whether anyone is already carpooling. Or whether anyone has an interest in setting up a car share scheme. You could also post a bulletin or send out an email advertising the fact that you are looking for someone to car share with on your commute.
You may need to do a bit more digging if you commute from a small village, town, or suburb to a city center. Consider placing a notice in a local community space, local shop, or other notice board. Advertise for people willing to car share into the center from your area.
There are also online resources to help you find a car share scheme in certain places. For example, check out Liftshare. On this site, you can register to advertise the fact that you can offer a lift, or look for someone who can give you a ride to work. Go Car Share is another interesting car share site to look at.
Commercial car share schemes have become considerably more popular in the last few years in many urban centers around the world. Whereas they can vary in exactly how they operate, typically, they provide access to a vehicle parked near the renter on a short-term basis at any time of the day.
Most of these schemes provide access via an app on your mobile phone that allows you to check and see if a car is available in real-time at nearby parking spots, reserve it, access it, and process payment for use. Unlike traditional car rental companies, you don't have to travel to them or rent the car for days at a time.
As such, there's certainly an environmental benefit as a result of fewer cars to service the needs of more people as opposed to individual ownership. Couple this with sharing rides with a number of people to reduce carbon emissions, the growing popularity of EVs across the schemes, and the apparent environmental benefits.
Whereas its certainly wise to check the details of the schemes near you you'll also find them extremely cost-effective and hassle-free. Typically they'll have as part of your hourly, by-the-minute, or per-mile trip cost roadside assistance and car insurance included.
Furthermore, as these schemes have grown, many now offer a wide range of vehicles, including everything from Mercedes Benz cargo vans for moving days and four-wheel drive cars to luxury SUVs. Most, however, focus on smaller, energy-efficient cars suited for quick urban runs in busy cities.
To access the vehicle, you normally scan an access code on your mobile phone or use a code provided. The same goes for starting the vehicle with a device near the driver's seat used to check your membership card, reservation, and payment. With gas included, then all you need to do is start it up and drive away, returning the car to the reserved parking space once you're done. You just need to consider your end trip's final destination in the range of the scheme.
If there is no car share scheme in place in your area, then you can start one, either formally or informally.
Think of this: On the day of the London marathon, there was an 89% reduction in air pollution. Our actions add up collectively to either help or harm our planet. Choosing to stop driving daily might seem like a drop in the ocean, but it's a very important drop. And by encouraging others to do the same, you could start a trickle and eventually a stream of change in the air quality of your environment and the world at large.
|State of Global Air/2019: A Special Report On Global Exposure to Air Pollution And its Disease Burden. Health Effects Institute, MA|
|Transport for London: Car Share Guide 2017|
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.