The 'sharing economy' refers to a collaborative approach to goods and services where people share access rather than having individual ownership. Also referred to as 'collaborative consumption', the approach is good for the environment, the wallet and for society. The energy and resources that go into the production of ‘stuff' is shared, as are the costs. And technology is making it easier and cheaper to share, rent and exchange our tangible and intangible assets.
This growing movement has websites or apps (software applications for mobile devices) for cars, food, clothes, holidays, housing, bikes, finance, education, desks, tasks and even errands. Share N Save, South Australia's new collaborative consumption website, is a great example of how the sharing economy is taking off. You'll find all kinds of sharing activities taking place across the state at this site, including community gardens and fruit and vegetable swaps, which are perfect for keeping purchasing and produce local.
There's also an ever growing amount of Social Media groups sharing the time, stuff and ideas. For example, Pay it Forward are local FaceBook communities where all that is offered and received is for free.
Check out how The Economist sees the rise of the sharing economy. You can save money, enjoy your passions, connect with people AND reduce waste! Here's a little slice of what's out there...
The bike sharing market has exploded in Australian cities in the last couple of years. There have been teething issues and some operators have left the market but the sharing model is here to stay.
Check with your council about their rules around share bikes and which companies operate in your area.
Libraries have transformed with the times in recent years with many not just offering traditional books but also audio books, movie streaming services, as well as DVDs, computers, internet access and meeting rooms. Street libraries are also popping up around the country in which you can offload your books and pick up pre-loved ones. Find a street library near you.
Cars are expensive which is why car sharing is so brilliant. Programs like GoGet, Flexicar and Green Car Share give you all the benefits of a car, without having to own one. You can join a network of locally parked cars which you can access for a couple of hours or a couple of days, and when you're finished, just return it to a dedicated parking bay (and avoid the hassle of a car park hunt!). Or visit Car Next Door or DriveMyCar rentals to borrow your neighbour's car when they don't need it. Pure genius.
Food can be shared via its cultivation and its preparation. From the Community Garden Network linking people interested in learning and growing fresh food, learning and RipeNear.Me a platform that allows users to share, sell and swap produce that they grow. You can also share your food scraps if you don't have a compost bin with those that do via ShareWaste.
Holiday accommodation that is unique, homely and not commercial can be found by one of the hottest sharing networks, Airbnb. No room at your place for your holidaying guests? Or fancy a break away but aren't into commercial hotels? Then this website is for you. And for transport to the airport, major events and other desirable destinations (whilst saving carbon emissions by not using your own car), check out Jayride.
The Party Kit Network is a non-profit community project working to make parties more sustainable. By providing reusable party kits we offer an accessible and easy way to avoid waste from disposables.
ToolMates Hire is a platform that allows others to make use of tools that are lying around, from gardening equipment to plant and heavy machinery.
Tool libraries are springing up around the country. The aim is for users to be able to hire a tool or gadget they need to use probably only once or twice instead of buying it. This saves resources, space and creates a community of users and is also great for those who want to donate items they no longer need and would otherwise end up in landfill.
As well as tools, there are organisations that hire out camping gear, party supplies, marquees and more. Check out these share libraries below.
One site that covers nearly all of the above is ECrent, an extensive online global sharing platform, encouraging people to share.
Got the tools but need help to fix something? iFixit is a wiki-based site that teaches people how to fix almost anything.
Collaborative consumption is happening around you, and now's the perfect time to get involved. Why not make this the year of saving, sharing and caring!
- Australian Ethical's The Sharing Economy guide
- Rachel Botsman's TEDTalk: The Case for Collaborative Consumption