Is This Greenwashing? Zipcar Ad

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Zip Cars, or Zipcar, if you haven’t heard of them, are sort of like rental cars but they are parked in various parking spots throughout cities. You sign up for a zipcar account and you can reserve them online. When you need one, you just go to the nearest parking lot that has one of these and you can check it out for a couple hours or a day or whatever. It’s kind of cool because then  you don’t need to own a car if you rarely use one. You can just pay for this as you need it.

The advertising though is clearly using the green marketing approach. We see a car driving through tall green grass, implying that Zipcar, that if you “Drive Differently” you are saving the environment. This is where I’m torn, because I’m not sure exactly the goal of Zipcar with this ad. Are they just  a rental car? Are they asking you to drive less, are they asking you to not own a car, but just use theirs when you need to? What are they suggesting? I’m not sure.

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  1. Pingback: Sustainability and Technology » Blog Archive » The Lean Mean Green Machine

  2. Pingback: Sustainability and Technology » Blog Archive » What’s Up With This Green Thing?

  3. I’ve seen these in my city. They’re basically just a service that allows you to rent a car for a short period of time, and then you have to return it to that location. It spreads the cost of car ownership across the community, instead of concentrating it in one person’s hands. The service isn’t “green” per se, but it enables people who don’t need to use a car very much to have access to a car, without purchasing one.

  4. Zip cars are widely used in Washington DC, I used to passed by two stands for them when I walked to the mall, that was only about 4 minutes away. Good to see that they’re really catching on at least in an urban setting 🙂

  5. Renting a zipcar when required helps relieves daily congestion and parking issues. Less cars on the road help reduce the amount of pollution in the air. You learn to depend less on driving an take up healthier activities such as walking, biking, or taking transit.

  6. I first have to complement you on the content of your site. The only thing worse than marketers is marketers jumping on the green bandwagon who dont deserve it.

    Having said that, I’ve been doing some research on this for a project, and most studies that I have found show that this service does help the environment.

    Because this service enables users to drive only by appointment, and they get charged by the hour and mile, there is a significant decrease in car usage relative to car owners. This leads, of course, to less, more efficient trips, as well as more walking, biking, and public transportation.

    It also tends to discourage members from buying cars which, one could argue, has a small affect on manufacturing waste. Depending on the city, I have found research that shows that every 1 America shared car replaces (on average) 49 consumer owned cars.

    It is still a small fraction compared to the overall US market, but I would argue that shared car services have earned their green-washed advertising scheme.


  7. Kyle,
    Thanks for your comment. I understand why Cyrus, the author of the post, may be torn by the advertising. I agree that the concept of Zip Car is a good one. I use another service in San Francisco called City Car Share. For me, living in an urban area, I have no need to own a car, and I drive less as a result. When I do need a car, one is available.

    “Drive Differently” is a an adman’s phrase – and a good one. But it may need more clarification so people understand the value of a model like Zip Car and others.

  8. Hi Kevin,
    That is an impressive statistic! (1:49 vehicles)

    I sure hope that is the case. As with a number of the other posts on this blog, we don’t necessarily think the product or service is not helpful, but the term “eco-friendly” leaves a lot of gray area for people to play in.


  9. It is especially valuable if you are within walking distance of a Zip car lot. Otherwise you need to figure out how to get to the car in the first place–cab, public transit often negate the Zip convenience and/or cost savings. There are calculators on their website that you can use to figure out whether it would be more affordable for you to use a Zip car versus own a car. That said, I think it is most important to consider your specific usage requirements, and proximity to a Zip car lot.

  10. Zip cars are great as you can take the transit to work and use zip cars for grocery shopping and the occasional outing that would be too inconvenient to take public transit!

  11. Having a Zipcar eliminates the need for ownership which probably would lead to more frequent use. The occasional user will probably use public transit or bicycles the rest of the time using private cars other than Zipcars. The more this concept becomes popular there will be a reduction to the number of vehicles on the roads and thus less pollution.

  12. Save your company money by using a zip car, which saves on travel time of bringing your own car to work, finding parking, and mileage and gas expenses. Companies can also rent luxury vehicles to impress their clients when entertaining.