Lyft Goes Green and Kills Two Birds With One Stone

How do you seem eco-friendly and profit from it? Easy, pay a charity to help combat carbon monoxide pollution. This is exactly what Lyft is doing, it is going to pay millions every year to 3Deegrees, and at the same instance both help the environment as well as gain a tax benefit from charitable work. Isn't good being a good guy.

Lyft performs 10 million rides a week in the US and Canada, with so much carbon monoxide entering the atmosphere they decided to try and help by reducing on one side while they pollute on the other. This approach is quite interesting, since they cannot change their driver's vehicles to electric, but they can introduce through 3Degree methods that counterbalance the pollution of their rides.

Lyft is the first transportation company, (not just rideshare) that will balance out the cause of pollution by actions that will lead to planting more trees or capturing greenhouse gasses.

John Zimmer, Lyft CEO explains "With great scale comes great responsibility. We get up every day thinking about how we can continue to have a positive impact on the communities we serve. As we grow, so does the opportunity to increase this impact. Making all rides carbon-neutral is one more step toward our mission of improving people's lives with the world's best transportation."

Lyft's finances are not great, juts like all rideshare companies, they operate at a loss relying on their investor's equity to subsidize rides and finance continuity. Eventually, prices will rise, and companies will start to become profitable. Until then, Lyft has to find ways to reach more customers and increase its attractiveness to investors and to a future IPO.

Lyft does not expect to become profitable before 2019, and this recent endeavor will cost it a few million more in 2018.


Lyft is collaborating with California based 3Degrees that will sell "Carbon Credits" to Lyft. These carbon credits are estimated by the number of cars and rides performed, a data set that Lyft has ready and available at any given moment. These credits will then be used by 3Degrees to reduce an equivalent amount of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. The "removal" prices can be done directly by planting trees or through actions that prevent another source of gasses to be released into the atmosphere.

Carbon Credits Credibility

There has been a lot of debate on the issue of carbon credits, this is not a new concept and has been around for over a decade. Some claim that its just a scam used to cover up the real intent of companies that have no intentions of changing their carbon emissions.

The Lyft vs. Uber image

One of the biggest issues that have plagued the rideshare sector has been a public image. Add to this the fact that an increase in the number of cars has led to an increase in the number of gas emissions leading to more criticism. Combined with the traffic issue and the way Uber initially expanded globally, the effects of ridesharing on taxi services and the fact that only six major companies control the worlds rideshare industry. Focuses every initiative taken by any company onto the company that makes a move.

Lyft's initiative is essentially a good one, but it's not born out of concern for the atmosphere, it is born out of the desire to beat Uber and look good doing it. Going green is a great marketing and PR maneuver, and it allows the drivers to continue their daily activities while being praised for being so Eco-friendly.

My Take

Lyft is trying to pull a fast one over our eyes. To make them look "cleaner" than Uber, they are going "green." When in reality they are not doing anything at all. They are not changing the vehicle types to be used. Here are a few options Lyft could take to be pro-active rather than passive:

  • They could ask drivers to fit some kind of exhaust emission catalyzer, perhaps buy the device and fit it on the driver's car and make it a mandatory device. They could pay drivers a bonus for adding the device.
  • They could start with that, making Lyft cars electric or hybrids, which would be a bit of a strain and perhaps reduce the number of drivers. However, if they raised the fare rate per mile for electric or hybrid cars as well as offer a one-time big bonus, you might find a lot of drivers going "green."

Just these two ideas would immediately reduce carbon emissions as well as cost Lyft less. However, this would not make the same impact as a passive charity act to 3Deegrees. In fact, this is a bit like confession for a thief, where he would confess his sins and expect to be absolved of the crime. Lyft is "paying" for public appearance while not really contributing directly to reducing the carbon emissions.

Rather then request drivers use carbon emission free vehicles, its better to spend the money on planting trees! Or perhaps paying someone to plant trees. There is such weird logic, and honestly, Lyfts latest escapade is insulting.