Robin Chase’s solution to global warming has wheels.
Chase, a sustainable entrepreneur, met with a roomful of Yalies during a Trumbull College Master’s Tea on Wednesday to share her apocalyptic yet hopeful views on climate change. Chase is a co-founder and former CEO of car-sharing company Zipcar and currently runs GoLoco, a service that helps communities create their own transportation networks.
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Chase said people must act soon to avert disaster.
“There is a 50-percent chance of averting catastrophic climate change,” Chase said, adding that preemptive actions would have to be taken “in a two- or three-year time frame.” She criticized the environmentalist strategies proposed by politicians at meetings of the United Nations because they often ignore the urgency of the situation.
Increasing the number of fuel-efficient cars, she said, would decrease carbon-dioxide emissions by 5 percent in 10 years, while car-sharing companies like Zipcar or GoLoco could achieve the same effect in a week.
Zipcar, founded in 1999, is a car-sharing company that provides its members with on-demand access to cars by the hour in 22 major North American cities. Chase said Zipcar is especially effective in big cities and college towns.
An average American spends 18 percent of his or her income on cars and related expenses, Chase said. Joining a network of shared cars could reduce this cost significantly and eliminate the hassle of parking — there are 30,000 fewer cars on the road because of Zipcar, she said.
GoLoco is a service that helps communities create their own transportation networks. After signing up on goloco.org, participants can share rides with people from their universities, hometowns or religious groups. GoLoco is an efficient method of reducing travel costs, interacting with new people, decreasing the number of car accidents and saving the environment at the same time, she said.
Nisa Marks ’10, who coordinates Master’s Teas for Yale’s Office of Sustainability, said Chase’s companies have the potential to effect major environmental change.
“Zipcar is a new cult of transportation,” Marks said.
Chase said the mission of Zipcar and GoLoco is to change the way people drive. Sharing a car rather than owning one makes commuters less dependent on driving because they are more inclined to walk or use public transportation, she said.
Chase, a graduate of Wellesley College and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, gave about 20 talks around the country last fall. She has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Fortune, Wired and Time magazines and has won several innovation and business awards, .
Holly Parker, the director of sustainable transportation systems at Yale, said over 400 people, including faculty, staff and students, have signed up for a Zipcar membership since September 2007, .
Zipcar will be adding a Mini Cooper to its fleet of cars on campus next week, Parker said.