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Would you give up your car for the planet?

One of the things I love most about sustainable business is the opportunity for constant innovation. Transportation is arguably one of the most rapidly greening sectors, and the carbon footprint from business travel is a regular concern for eco-conscious event planners.

One of the coolest ideas I have seen lately is the Zipcar. The company provides car-sharing solutions in cities all over the U.S. and Great Britain as well as in Barcelona, Spain, and Toronto and Vancouver, Canada. Currently, there are over 11,000 Zipcars around the world. The fleet includes all types of vehicles including trucks, SUVs, sedans and compact models.

So how does it work? An individual or company may sign up for a low, monthly or annual membership fee. Membership entitles a driver access to cars stationed at convenient locations around a Zipcar city. Rates for car usage are billed hourly or by the day and include gas, insurance and limited mileage. Billing for all users in a company can be sent to a single, corporate credit card or can be sent to individual cards.

The company’s proprietary technology makes it all seamlessly possible. Zipcar users are issued a Zipcard. The Zipcard allows users to lock and unlock a car they have reserved online. Tracking information about the car and trip details is available online and on the Zipcar apps for Android and iPhone. Apps also provide convenient features like available car locations and even locking and unlocking the doors to your designated Zipcar.

Zipcar’s vision is the global reduction of personally-owned vehicles. The company claims that each Zipcar takes 15 of them off the road. For many Americans, giving up their cars may be hard to imagine, but in other parts of the world, car ownership is neither practical nor affordable. Zipcar has provided a transportation solution for people who cannot afford a car of their own, need a temporary second vehicle, need a vehicle for travel, a larger vehicle for a one-time task or just want to make a greener lifestyle choice.

So how green is it? According to Zipcar, “90 percent of our members drove 5,500 miles or less per year. That adds up to more than 32 million gallons of crude oil left in the ground—or 219 gallons saved per Zipster.”

The Zipcar provides a convenient and eco-friendly transportation choice for business travelers. Once a traveler arrives at a destination, they may not need a rental car for the duration of their stay, but a Zipcar may be the perfect solution for limited use in a destination city.

Like so many green innovations, Zipcar is also a money saver. Zipcar says that its customers save an average of $500 per month over the “average cost of owning and operating a car in an urban environment.” When you think about the combined costs of car payments, insurance, maintenance and parking, that number sounds completely believable. The website, Zipcar.com, also provides a long list of case studies from small and large businesses that use Zipcar. These testimonials offer some great points of reference for how these companies have leveraged Zipcar to save money.

I recently relocated to Southern California, where the traffic is horrid, parking is limited and public transit has not quite been perfected. A Zipcar would be a great alternative to owning my own vehicle. I will let you all know when I decide to defect from the automobile-owning population.

Green Tip:
April is the month for Earth Day celebrations around the world. This year, NASA launched a global initiative called the “Global Selfie” event. NASA is launching five different Earth-observing missions this year. To encourage environmental awareness, NASA asked people around the world to step out into their local environment and take a selfie and then post it on social media. On Earth Day, NASA posted a crowd-sourced mosaic image of Earth using these photos. Check it out at NASA.gov.

Posted in Columns, The Green Piece
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