Lyft Commits to Carbon Offsetting All User Rides

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They'll also be investing in alternative powertrains and other ways to directly reduce emissions.

There's been much discussion of the environmental pros and cons of ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber. On the one hand, they may make car-free living easier and less stressful. On the other hand, there are some serious concerns that they are actively killing transit.

Regardless of the broader question of if and how these services fit into a less car-dependent future, it's fair to say we'd all benefit if they took significant steps to lessen their own environmental impact. Lyft just announced a pretty significant step in that direction, stating that every single ride booked through the Lyft app will now be offset through investments in renewable energy programs, forestry projects, the capture of emissions from landfills, and, perhaps most intriguingly, "reduction of emissions in the automotive manufacturing process." All projects will be overseen by Lyft's carbon offset partners 3 Degrees.

Of course, just as "ride share" apps have both supporters and detractors in terms of environmental impact, carbon offsets are also the source of much debate. But Lyft's multi-million dollar a year commitment to investing in emissions reductions will certainly help to reduce net emissions, and as the company itself points out, also serves to establish an incentive to reducing emissions at source too:

"This action is not the full solution, but a real step forward. By committing significant financial resources to these offsets, we’re building into our business a strong incentive to pursue shared rides and the displacement of gasoline-powered vehicles. The more shared rides and clean vehicles on the platform, the fewer carbon offsets we will need to purchase."

And that really sums up how I have always thought about offsets. If they are used as part of an overall strategy to reduce emissions, they make sense—given that it's impossible for us to get to zero overnight. If they are used as an excuse to continue with business as usual, rather than making any significant operational changes, then they are a negative influence that needs to be challenged.

It sounds like Lyft is doing things right. I look forward to seeing the results.