Stories

Earth Day is Sunday. And every day.

April 19, 2018 | US
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Ditch your car. Do some good.

Written by Adam Gromis, Global Lead on Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Green is always in, but on April 22, dozens of countries and millions of people will demonstrate their support for Mother Earth by planting a tree, cleaning up a beach, or even turning off the tap while brushing their teeth. Another way to show the planet some love? Ditch your car on Earth Dayor any day.

While cars have revolutionized travel for over a century, our dependence on them has caused all kinds of environmental headaches. The 1.2 billion people living in the 35 most developed countries in the world travel almost 18 trillion kilometers a year. (That’s more than 1,000 round-trip journeys to Pluto!) Unbelievably, 80% of those kilometers are done in fossil fuel–burning cars and trucks that often transport just the driver. If the average car is used about an hour a day, that means at any moment in time, personal cars could be carrying about 200 million empty seats around, all while using more than half the world’s oil supply.*


The cost of empty seats

In honor of Earth Day, we encourage you to walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit. The reason? Driving alone is by far the most inefficient and environmentally damaging way to get around. Here’s why: emissions from personal car–dominated transportation can account for one-fifth to two-thirds of a city’s carbon footprint and cause half or more of urban air pollution. The chart below illustrates the average annual climate impact (measured in CO2) of one person by transportation mode.**

In a nutshell, if you are a solo driver in a gas-powered car, you’d need to plant 81 trees to offset your carbon footprint for each year of driving.

Uber’s commitment to more sustainable transportation

Our goal is to make every journey sharedsimply by filling empty seats. Here’s how:

1. Fewer trips. Fuller cars.

Our ridesharing platform fills empty seats with innovations such as uberPOOL, Express POOL, and uberXL, and features like Split Fare and Multiple Destinations. The impact can add up. In 2017 alone, drivers served 35 million riders in POOL trips. If these riders had instead driven by themselves, cities might have seen an additional 314 million vehicle miles and 82,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.***

2. More efficient kilometers. Greener vehicles.

We help drivers reduce their impact through improved routing and other technologies that enable higher-efficiency driving. In fact, research shows that our technology-enabled platform increases the movement of people while minimizing the movement of vehicles by 38% over previous forms of for-hire vehicle services. Furthermore, we applaud the efforts of drivers who upgrade to alternative-fuel, hybrid, and electric cars. In 2017, drivers on Uber’s US network drove more than 6% of miles completed in hybrid electric cars nationwide, which is significant when considering that only 2%-3% of cars sold in the US are hybrids.

3. Exciting projects. New partnerships.

Electrifying shared vehicles is an enormous challenge, and we’re excited to find solutions with experts in this space to go green. In fact, we’re already teaming up with nonprofit and commercial partners on more than a dozen electric vehicle (EV) programs around the world.

Of course the greenest seat in town is often on public transit. A bus or commuter rail ride can be 2 to 3 times cleaner than a solo car drive. That’s why we’ve partnered with transit agencies and advocates to help fill empty seats on buses and trains, such as by providing first- and last-mile solutions. Just last week, we announced a partnership with Masabi, the global leader in public transit mobile ticketing, to let riders book and use transit tickets in our app.

4. Walk and Uber. Bike with Uber.

Although walking is great for the environment and your health, it isn’t always practical for longer-distance trips or bad weather. One solution is Express POOL, where riders pay less, walk more, and help increase pooling efficiency. Since Express POOL’s February 2018 launch in 8 US cities, riders have already completed more than 1.4 million kilometers of walkinga distance close to 35 laps around the equator. And with Uber Bike provided by JUMP, riders have more active options for moving around cities.

What the future holds

The shift toward more shared and active modes of transportation is part of a larger movement that cities have pioneered for decades: creating cities for people, not cars. To help make this vision a reality, we recently signed on to the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, joining a coalition of nonprofit and commercial partners committed to more human-centric and sustainable urban design.  

What you can do

This Sunday, we encourage riders to ditch their car for the day. Whether you walk, bike, bus, or rideshare with uberPOOL or Express POOL, you are filling seats and helping offset air pollution. Plus, it just feels good.

For riders

  • We encourage you to walk, bike, and take public transit. And, in a pinch or a downpour, we’re here to help get you home.
  • Biking can be faster, cheaper, and a whole lot greener. Need a bike? Press a button and get a bike using Uber Bike in San Francisco and Washington, DC.
  • Check if a bus or train can get you to your destination. We can help if you need a ride to or from the station.
  • More people in fewer cars means less air pollution. Share the ride with Express POOL and uberPOOL, or use Split Fare on uberX and uberXL.

For drivers

  • Sharing your car with more riders helps lessen air pollution. Thank you for providing shared rides.
  • If your current car is costing too much in gas, find out if switching to a greener car could help.

Want to know what else Uber is doing to help fill empty seats? Get more information from our Public Policy team.

Learn more >


*Thanks for checking our math: here we assume 5% of the 1.2 billion cars around the world are on the road at any given time, with each having at least 3 empty seats (e.g. according to the US Department of Transportation’s 2017 National Household Travel Survey, about 60% of miles driven in the US are by solo drivers), and round up to the nearest hundred million.

**Based on 2015 data from United States government sources including the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Department of Energy, the Energy Information Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Assumed load factors for transit bus and commuter rail9.1 and 31.6, respectivelycited from the US government may fall below those measured in certain international cities.

***Again, calculations depend on assumptions. These numbers estimate the additional impact that would have occurred if every POOL rider had instead taken a trip by driving themselves in an average personal car instead of riding together in fewer vehicles, adjusting for the extra blocks we route drivers to pick up additional riders. Vehicle fuel economy assumptions and climate impact information are sourced from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative and the US EPA, respectively.