Opinion: Third Voice - How a social enterprise reduces carbon emissions

Ali Clabburn, managing director, liftshare

I grew up on a farm in Norfolk, surrounded by people who were always busy doing things, building things, fixing things. I guess some of this rubbed off on me. If I see something broken, inefficient or wasteful, my mind starts whirring and ideas pop out of ways to fix it.

I sit here now, about to turn 30, wondering how to put down in words just why I have spent every working day since leaving university in the transport industry. How can an industry with a reputation for being as sexy as a railway sleeper have provided me with everything I could have dreamed of: a truly fulfilling job, a clear conscience and a happy life?

Transport is one of the biggest industries in the UK. As is the case with many big industries, inefficiencies are rife. Every day, there are 10 million empty seats on the roads in Britain, yet our roads are the most congested in Europe.

The idea to help people share cars by setting up an online matching service came from a simple problem - I was a student and I couldn't afford the train. Thirty thousand students were heading home at Christmas and I was sure that one of them could offer me a lift. In return, I would offer to chip in for the petrol.

I now have a team of 10 people helping me and our social enterprise is starting to make a real impact. Through our website - www.liftshare.com - and the national call centre (on 08700 111199) we are now helping 70,000 people find lifts to work, sports events, festivals, hospitals, or visit friends all over the UK.

The liftshare website is simple. It brings people together who are travelling the same way so they can share a car, share the costs and help reduce traffic. By doing so, we are currently saving 35 million miles, or 25 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide, each year. The scheme is funded through more than 400 personalised services for councils, businesses and communities, with any profits being invested in further development.

Being nominated for an Enterprising Young Brit Award was a great honour, but the best reward is having members writing in to thank us. We've helped some get to a job they otherwise wouldn't have got, and introduced others to neighbours who happen to drive the same way as them every day.They're now good friends and, just as importantly, happy car sharers.

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