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Scots car pool to cut carbon footprint

 The Big Issue in Scotland 04 June 2019

More people than ever are turning to lift-sharing or car pooling as a means to beat the recession and cut down their carbon footprint. As Laura Kelly discovers many Scots commuters are turning to WWII-style car-sharing schemes to beat the downturn and cut carbon emissions. (788 words) - By Laura Kelly

More people than ever are turning to lift-sharing as a means to beat the recession and cut down their carbon footprint.

The number of Scots people sharing the cost of journeys by arranging to give lifts to fellow travellers has gone up by 82 per cent in the last 18 months, according to the Liftshare network.

Liftshare - the largest car-share network in the UK - says that they have 20,000 active members in Scotland, up from 11,000 a year and a half ago.

"Car-sharing has grown massively in popularity over the last year or two," says Cecilia Bromley-Martin, communications manager for Liftshare. "It saves people money which is particularly important during the recession. But it's also much greener than driving alone: when two people share a car, one car is left at home so the environmental impact of the journey is halved. On top of that, it is great fun! We get lovely feedback from members who have become great friends, often socialising together and staying in touch long after they no longer need to share their journey."

One commuter who benefitted from liftsharing is 33-year-old IT manager Kenny Scott.

Scott had shared the 50-mile round trip from his Dundee home to work in Glenrothes with a friend, but when his colleague changed job he was left making the journey alone - and footing the whole bill.

"Primarily it was cost that inspired me to liftshare," says Scott. "I was doing a 25-mile journey twice a day to work and travelling alone was very costly."

After signing up to - a part of the Liftshare network, based in Tayside and Central Scotland and maintained by the Regional Transport Partnership for Tayside and Central Scotland - Scott found a German girl named Meike Wessels to share the journey with and immediately started seeing the savings.

"I saved about £100 a month," he says. "I tried to keep the money aside so I could see the tangible saving, rather than it getting swallowed up in our usual costs. I was carsharing for about a year and I put the money towards a holiday to Thailand."

Though the cash in hand was the main impetus for Scott, he also enjoyed having some company on the 45-minute drive and was happy to know that he was doing his bit to cut CO2 emissions.

Scott adds that he thinks carsharing is even more important in rural areas where public transport is not always a viable option, as it allows people without cars to have access to work. For Wessels, who didn't have a car, the daily drive meant she was able to accept a job that would have been impossible for her to reach through other means.

Every day during the morning rush hour, there are 38 million empty car seats on the UK's roads. The average car commuter drives 19 miles a day but if they shared that journey with a passanger they could cut their carbon footprint in half, saving 648kg of carbon dioxide over one year, or the same as that absorbed by 216 trees.

In the UK, increasing the occupancy from 1.2 to 1.4 passengers per car would also decrease congestion by 10 per cent.

"I would most definitely recommend carsharing for anyone who has to travel a distance to work," says Scott. "You're not tied into anything so you can choose the people you want and once you find someone you can just go with them. It's great."

Members of the Liftshare network can sign up for regular journeys, like Scott did, or for one-off trips such as to festivals. Students even use it to find a lift home at the end of term.

The company is a social enterprise - mission-driven rather than profit-driven and is therefore free to join. They fund the service by providing individual car-share schemes to councils, businesses, hospitals, universities, events and business parks.

Though encouraging people to use public transport first, Friends of the Earth Scotland says it is encouraging that more people are choosing to liftshare.

Davina Shiell at Friends of the Earth Scotland adds, "When planning a journey, we would encourage people to first of all question whether the trip is necessary - could the meeting happen by phone or video conference instead? If you are going to make the journey look into public transport options, as this is the most climate friendly way of travelling.

"And if you really need to go by car, car-sharing is the best option, saving you money as well as cutting congestion and pollution."

The idea has even got support from motoring organisation the AA, which urges drivers to consider car-sharing, "It is better for your pocket, better for the environment, better for congestion, and indeed better for conversation."

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