Zipcar helps the environment by reducing the number of people who own cars. Fewer car owners results in fewer car trips overall, so less gas is used and less CO2 is put into the atmosphere. Also, if fewer people are buying cars, then less raw materials and energy are needed to manufacture new cars.
To expand on tutt47’s answer, the Zipcar, by popularizing shared transport, has also encouraged the use of public transportation in general (not including the Zipcar) — in other words, a trickle-down effect in human behavior. In a study done by the Department of the Environment in the District of Columbia, 47% of Zipcar members found that they increased their use of public transportation outside of using a Zipcar and 59% of car owners had completely given up ownership of a private vehicle. (Source: Zipcar DC Survey Results May 2008)
Zipcar is also encouraging people to move away from a consumer mentality. Every person who can drive does not need his or her own car. By participating in Zipcar, you are acknowledging that you can live a satisfying and independent lifestyle without having to own your own car. As this kind of lifestyle becomes popular, it will have an increasingly positive effect our environment. The more people share resources that put a strain on our environment both through the production and the use of the object, the more we are moving towards a more sustainable culture and environment. This can be seen also in clothes, books, and movie swaps, using libraries and movie rental services.
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