Last updated Wednesday 30 April 2008

Fill up a seat and give the planet a lift

Us Brits love to drive solo - every day we chauffeur 38 million empty seats on our commute. Can sharing a journey ease our carbon guilt-trips?

You may have noticed that the majority of cars on the road aren't full - probably including your own. Online car-sharing sites help motorists to find other drivers making the same trip as you and team up to cut your emissions and expenses.

According to the National Office of Statistics, if every person who drives regularly gave one other driver a lift, even once a week, the number of commuting cars would fall by 15%. The average driver could save about 350 a year by sharing a commute with two other drivers.

Of course, public transport is a much more climate-friendly way of getting around, if you can face it.

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Photo: Car-sharing

Saves up to 690kg of CO2 a year

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How does it work?

Pub Fact

  • The average car occupancy is 1.6 people per car and for commuting it's 1.2
  • Men are more likely to drive than women. In 2005, 63% of men were the main driver, compared with 48% of women
  • Between 1985 and 2003, the proportion of cars containing one person rose from 58% to 61%
  • The average car commuter drives 18 miles each day
  • Over half of all rural households had two or more cars in 2005
  • Congestion has risen 14% since 1995

Online car-sharing is a bit like using a dating agency, though perhaps slightly less nerve-wracking. The sites don't all work in exactly the same way, but generally you enter your details and they match you to your ideal travelling companion based on your location and destination.

If you're worried that too much small talk before your coffee kicks in will have you jumping out at the first set of lights, some websites profile potential car-sharers to help you pair up with someone suitable. More seriously, women concerned about safety can opt for female-only cars.

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How will it make a difference?

  • By sharing your commute with two other people, you can cut your fuel bill by two-thirds
  • By sharing your average commute (18 miles), you could save up to 700kg of CO2 a year, according to the Environment Agency, almost twice as much CO2 as recycling
  • Car-share organisation Liftshare claims that doubling the number of passenger trips, assuming those passengers had previously driven themselves, could reduce CO2 emissions by 35 million tonnes a year - cutting road transport emissions by as much as 25%, and the UK's emissions by 6%
  • As well as cutting your , you and the people you share with can save on fuel costs, parking fees, road tolls, wear and tear on your car and even insurance if you lower your mileage significantly
  • Car-sharing commuters could save an average of 350 a year compared to driving alone, according to EST. Transport for London estimates that Londoners could save at least twice as much
  • You can also claim 5p per mile per passenger from your employer when you carry work colleagues as passengers on a business trips. Read more about it on HM Revenue and Customs website
  • You might even enjoy the company!

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What's the debate?

Driving with a friend all year still clocks up 1.5 tonnes of CO2 - a third of the average Brit's direct emissions. So if you can turn some of those car journeys into bike rides or train trips, so much the better.

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How will I do it?

Just find the right organisation for you and give it a go:

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Jo 2008-12-31

I share with two other girls, which is cutting my CO2 by about a tonne a year (plus saving me nearly £900 in petrol alone - can't complain!!) I'm on the website you mention, - their homepage says they've had nearly 300,000 people register with them which is amazing. It's great to see how car sharing is taking off, as it's really good fun too!

alistair, scotland 2008-09-11

I recently started to car share with a work colleague and since doing so, have saved approximaetly 80 each month in fuel costs and kept 750+ miles off my car. It also take one single-person car off the road for 2 weeks every month.

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Glossary terms used on this page
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Eco-friendly, or environmentally friendly, is a term applied to goods, services, processes or people deemed to do minimal harm to the environment. The term is shorthand for 'ecologically friendly', ecology being the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment. navigation


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