Summer's Here: Dip Your Toe in the Car pool

Depending on where you live, summer is here or just about here. And, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that gasoline is spendy -- over 4 bucks a gallon, on average -- and it's going to get more expensive as the summer wears on. While the ultimate solution -- driving less -- is easy to say and difficult to implement, there's one thing we all can do, starting right now, to make a difference in our wallets and for the planet.


Here's the scoop: driving by yourself is a pretty inefficient way to get around. So, even if you can't drive an electric car or fuel up with biofuels, you can make it a little greener by dipping your toe in the car pool.


The Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that the average cost of owning and operating a motor vehicle in 2003 was $0.53 per mile. With gas costs rising, that number is certainly higher now, and will only continue to climb. The DOT also says that over 18% of all American household expenditures each year pay for owning and operating our personal cars. Plus, about 20% of our carbon footprint comes from driving, and 86% of us drive to work alone. Yikes. All these numbers add up to one quick and easy solution.

  1. eRideShare is a free service for connecting commuters, or travelers going the same way in the US or Canada, even incorporating Craigslist's rideshare listings. They have over 11,000 rideshare listings in total, and you can find carpools listed by state or province.
  2. Ridester is a community of carpoolers and road trippers that can help get you from city to city while reducing the volume of traffic on the road. The online service (free to join) features a way to both offer and find rides; drivers get paid for gas and riders pay for the lift.
  3. NuRide, touted as a frequent-flyer program for cars, takes a proactive approach to cutting down on traffic, petroleum consumption and pollution by offering rewards for documenting your ride-sharing with them. After a set number of miles of carpooling, you start earning rewards, like gift cards and discounts to retailers across the country.
  4. GoLoco is a newer service headed by the founder of car-sharing service ZipCar, and they offer drivers the option of charging for rides to the game, the airport, the store, or wherever.
  5. Casual Car Pool gives Bay Area commuters the option for a ride across the Bay Bridge, while avoiding the toll, and riding in the (theoretically faster) carpool lane without pre-registration or advance sign up.

Though TreeHugger prefers bicycles and legs for transportation over automobiles, sometimes cars are the only way to go. When the time for four-wheeled, petroleum-powered transportation comes, we definitely recommend that you find a friend who's going the same way. Whether you're heading across town or across the country, carpooling is a good way to use more seat belts and cut back on emissions.

Image credits: Getty Images