Vroom’s claim doesn’t get my green light

           I was momentarily excited when I saw the headline on a press release from PJ Inc. Public Relations in New York hawking an “eco-friendly car rental site.” Cool! I thought. This will be a great place to locate hybrids, and maybe even electric cars!
           Oh, I can be so naive… No, what the “green” refers to with Vroom Vroom Vroom, an Australian company making its US debut, is that it’s providing carbon offsets for customers (it also reportedly offsets its own operations).
             While I’m not complaining that Vroom is spending some money to *in part* mitigate the carbon dioxide it and its customers’ cars will be emitting, this smells more like a marketing effort than an honest attempt to “be green.”
             If you look at all the fleets of all the companies Vroom3 does business with (including Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise) you won’t find a hybrid among them, but you will find all types of SUVs and pickup trucks. Yes, I do know that some of these companies offer some hybrids, but if it were a standard option, it would be on their fleet lists. If Vroom3 really wants to *do* something instead of *pay* for something, it should be pushing for more hybrid rentals.
            When I asked one of the PR folks who wrote the release about all this, she said, ” People still need to get around and are facing a number of limitations, including budgetary constraints, that preclude them from buying or renting hybrids/alt-fuel vehicles (the good news is, if they are renting a car, it’s likely they’re not driving every day!). With the carbon offsetting program, Vroom Vroom Vroom can contribute to minimizing the damage, without putting the burden on the consumer.”
            OK, first of all, most people who rent cars have actually flown somewhere, which is a heck of a lot worse that driving. And to say Americans can’t afford alt-fuel vehicles when many cars on the road cost the same or more than a Prius is just ridiculous.
             Now, back to carbon offsets. They are NOT the answer. They help somewhat, just like it’s helpful to give money to a “Stop Littering” campaign. But if you are littering at the same time, that’s just counterproductive.  OK, not a perfect analogy, because we live in a car culture and not, thankfully, a littering one. But there are more and less “green” ways to drive. 
             As Washington Post writer David Fahrenthold said in his wonderful article this week titled “There’s a Gold Mine In Environmental Guilt,”  watchdog groups say offset vendors sometimes do not deliver what they promise. Some offset projects, such as mass tree plantings aimed at absorbing carbon dioxide, deliver climate benefits that are difficult to measure. In other cases, it is unclear whether offsets funnel money to existing projects or to projects that might have been done anyway.” David, of course, isn’t the first to say these things. I’ve read about problems with carbon offsets in many, many reliable publications.
             So, as I wrote to said PR person, while I think it’s laudable that the company is providing offsets, I don’t see it as a “green company” but one that mitigates some of its contribution to carbon emissions. But then, that doesn’t sound so exciting in a headline, does it?


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5 Responses to “Vroom’s claim doesn’t get my green light”

  1. karel Says:

    Of course, emotional you are upset. But rational you know better. And,as far as I know, car market in the USA is already changing. SUVs are replaced by small cars, still for gaz only, or by Hybrids. Why? Because gaz is getting more and more expensive. (Except in these days of Capital-crisis) In the end even automotive-companies will convince”‘green”people and find their wallet. And all the remainder is comedy. But the ultimate option is facing the fact that when all bowls are empty, dinner is done

  2. Melissa Says:

    There is actually a website that offers bookings with hybrid and fuel efficient rental cars, and they highlight them in every search where they are available. The site is called RezHub.com. Right now the inventory is limited but they are currently adding a lot of new vendors which will be expanding on their results very soon.

  3. Melissa Says:

    Oh and RezHub also donated 20% of their profits to customer chosen environmental non-profit groups.

  4. Richard Eastes Says:

    Awww Diane! I work at VroomVroomVroom and I know we could be doing more with Hybrids and we will as suppliers make more available.

    Until then, we will continue to “pick up the litter” of cars for free. We recently offset 1300 tons of carbon which cost us nearly $30,000.

    Diane, I’d like to invite you to try Vroom sometime. Please contact me so you can trial us with a FOC car!

  5. didaniel Says:

    Hi Richard. While I think offsets can be useful, they really don’t change folks’ behavior. If anything, they mitigate guilt.

    I’d be interested in hearing what your company is doing to make more hybrids available. If you want to be a driving force and a true “eco-friendly company,” as your PR folks state, you’ll do more than wait by the sidelines for suppliers.

    You should know, also, that I wouldn’t have criticized the company had your marketing folks not made such a big deal of it being green. If you make those claims, they should be backed up. I don’t think that merely offsetting carbon makes for a “eco-friendly car rental company.”

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