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Why We Are Giving Away Free Gas?

By Corey Diamond, Managing Director Summerhill Impact

I have to be honest – it still sounds crazy to me too. I’ve been asking myself this question for months – "Should an environmental organization be giving away free gas to reward people for driving less and driving better?" Intuitively, the answer should be "no". This is going too far. This is a desperate plea to bribe the public to do the right thing.

But then I think about 3 hard core facts:

  1. Canadians simply cannot get out of their cars.
    When we ran Retire Your Ride (www.retireyourride.ca), we were successful in permanently retiring more than 138,000 older high-polluting vehicles. Yet, countering this success was the fact that 70% of people who retired a car, went on to purchase a new one. This isn't surprising – the conventional Canadian lifestyle is just not conducive to simply getting rid of cars and opting for bikes or buses. Our cities, our climate, our collective inertia have conspired against us to make this an impossibilium.
  2. Canadians are obsessed with gas prices.
    If a gas station reduces its price by 3 cents, word of mouth leads to long lineups at the pump. People leave their homes to get in the car, to fill up the tank and drive back home. A Google search for "Cheap Gas Toronto" yields 1.6 million results. People are mobilized from coast to coast in search of "cheap gas" – like the weather and hockey, the price of gas is part of our collective mindset.
  3. Existing interventions aren’t working.
    Average commute times for major urban centres in Canada are increasing. In fact, Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto all made the Top 10 of most congested cities in North America (http://www.tomtom.com/lib/doc/congestionindex/2012-0704-TomTom-Congestion-index-2012Q1namerica-mi.pdf). While we are seeing the rise in Smart Commute programs and urban cycling, these remain on the fringe – campaigns for the converted and one-off feel good endeavours. Whatever we're doing now, is not working. We still get back in the car, at the end of the day.

So if it's unrealistic to stop driving altogether, we remain a gas-guzzling culture and "drive less" campaigns aren’t adding up, what would it really take to get people out of their cars?

More gas, for driving less.

Imagine joining WeightWatchers...and if you do your part and reduce your calorie count, then you get a free dessert. Sounds like a motivating reason to keep eating healthy, right? And at the end of the day, you and your body still win.

Sometimes what motivates us most is not just doing the right thing, but being rewarded for doing it. So let's reward ourselves, after a little hard work.

Join Shuttle today!

We're betting you can improve your commute by 10%. Take the transit once every other week and catch up on your reading; pull out that bike you keep moving around the garage; carpool twice a month. Then, carry on with your regular life. Reach the 10% target, and we’ll pay you in free gas to do it. You'll see, it’s not that hard.