LiftShare.com celebrated its tenth birthday in 2008. Founded in 1998 by Ali Clabburn while he was still at Bristol Uni, Ali turned LiftShare from a fledgling idea into an organisation with over 280,000 members and 300+ people joining every day.
LiftShare estimates that it saves around 40,000 car trips per day: that’s 19,532 tonnes of CO2 saved every year! That also means reduced air pollution, less congestion and some great connections along the way.
Ali lives with his wife Charlotte and their two children in Norfolk. He first got the idea for Liftshare when travelling in Germany where they had offices in train stations to help people to share lifts. Using the last of his student loan, the help of friends and a lot of midnight oil, he held down a job from 4am until lunchtime every day and then ran Liftshare after that. In 1999, Glastonbury festival approached him for a branded car sharing website to help unclog the local roads around the festival and LiftShare started to gain momentum.
“I had no money, no IT knowledge, and no business experience,” says Ali. “The Internet was new and car sharing was unheard of. Looking back, I have no idea how I managed it! But I’m glad now that I had to ensure it was self-financing and financially secure without relying on grants. It works.”I asked him what was the longest journey a LiftSharer has done. “To Portugal after the Big Green Gathering. We also sponsored a couple of girls who drove a tuk tuk from Thailand to Brighton for charity.”
CO2 emissions can actually work out less too, if you’re travelling in a small car. It works out that each person emits around 0.1 kg CO2/mile if you’re car sharing, but 0.14 kg CO2/mile if you both go by coach.
I asked Ali where he saw Liftshare in ten years’ time. “My wife and I are both from farming families, and feel a strong sense of community and enjoy fixing things. Hopefully by 2018 the trend of ever more individualistic lifestyles will have been reversed and people will be helping each other, sharing things and feeling part of their community. Liftshare would like to help play a part in that change: encouraging people to share all over the world.”
And the twin conundrum of climate change and peak oil? “Educate children about the benefits of sharing and teach them how to think for themselves,” says Ali. “Government needs to focus on simple solutions that work rather than big capital projects that win votes. Make sure that people have the right information about how they can do their bit.”
Any advice for enthusiastic entrepreneurs wanting to start their own eco-friendly schemes? “Do something you enjoy,” he says. “Focus on outcomes rather than money. Start small, throw 110 per cent of your energy at it, learn quickly what works and what does not, don’t be afraid to change your strategy, stay focused and try to find the quickest way to get there. Do not get distracted or let your enthusiasm drop. Get early case studies to help promote your idea: they are your second best asset (after your energy).”
Ali also co-ordinates some other initiatives, namely, BikeBUDi.com, WalkBUDi.com and TaxiBUDi.com which bring people together to share cycling routes, taxi rides and walks. Lots of other BUDi systems are in development. The LiftShare team recently moved to new premises which they are greening up with various techniques. “We hope to use a vertical axis wind turbine for electric. The building has been insulated with hemp walls and a thick roof. The building will be sealed and a ground air duct will bring in air at 10C: cowels on the roof will draw the air through the building. The PC’s and people will heat the air. We will also have two very small log burners to get the building up to temperature on cold mornings…”
Written by Sune Nightingale
First published issue 55 (Winter 08)
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