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', sharing goods and services is great for the environment, the wallet, and for building happy communities.
To some it may seem like a strange concept at first, but you have likely engaged in the sharing economy without knowing it. Perhaps through hiring a book from the library, renting a car or scooter, or being an active member of a community garden.
What are the benefits?
The energy and resources that go into the production of ‘stuff' is shared across the community, as are the costs. When fewer people own things, it reduces the need to extract new materials from the earth, like oil to make plastic. Making fewer products also reduces associated water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Technology is making it easier and cheaper to share, rent, and exchange our tangible and intangible possessions. This growing movement has websites and apps (software applications for mobile devices) for sharing cars, food, clothes, holidays, housing, bikes, finance, education, desks, tasks, and even errands.
You can save money, enjoy your passions, connect with people, and reduce waste! Here's a little slice of what's out there...
Australian Library of Things Network
Also known as ‘tool libraries’, these community-run programs allow members to hire all kinds of goods such as power tools, bikes, camping gear, gardening equipment, electronics, kitchen appliances, and sporting equipment. Generally, members pay an annual subscription fee to access these goods.
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. It’s also great for those who want to donate items they no longer need that would otherwise end up in landfill. The Inner West Library of Things in Sydney released an impact report in 2022 that estimates their members have saved $324,000 over three years and prevented 1.5 tonnes of items being sent to landfill!
Use this map to see if your neighbourhood has a Library of Things.
To learn more, including how to start your own Library of Things, visit The Australian Library of Things Network.
Baby equipment and toys
Rather than buying equipment like prams, bassinets, carriers, and play pens, Kindershare allows users to rent the items. This could be a great option for parents who want to ‘try before they buy’ to make sure the product is right for them.
Toy Libraries Australia is a not-for-profit network of 260 toy libraries across the country. Toy libraries provide families a range of quality fun and educational toys, games, puzzles, and activities to borrow or hire for a fee.
Bicycles and scooters
Spinlister is a bike rental and sharing service that provides a platform to connect bike owners with active people looking to rent or borrow around the world.
The bike and scooter 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. Or click the links below to learn about bike share services in Australia's major cities.
Get My Boat is a global platform for lovers of water sports, providing rental services for boats, yachts, jet-skis, and fishing charters.
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 and caravans
Cars are expensive to buy and maintain and require a great deal of resources to manufacture. Car sharing is a type of car rental service aimed at replacing car ownership, which is particularly appealing to people who don’t drive often. Car sharing differs from car rentals in a number of ways including a self-service style booking, pick-up, and drop-off system.
There are numerous car sharing businesses operating in Australia that give you all the benefits of a car, without having to own one, including GoGet, Flexicar, and Green Car Share. 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!).
There are many ways to share and hire clothing and accessories. Numerous clothing hire businesses are operating in Australia such as Glam Corner, Ekoluv, and Dressed Up, which are particularly helpful for special occasions.
There are also opportunities to swap your unwanted clothing with people from your community through ‘clothes swaps’. Check with your council or google ‘clothes swap’ and your city or town to see if there is an event happening near you. The Clothing Exchange posts regular clothes swaps, or you could follow these tips to host your own event.
Community gardens, compost and food
Food can be shared via its cultivation and its preparation. Community Gardens Australia is a networking organisation connecting community gardeners across the country. Local Harvest is a platform that provides users with information about community gardens and food swaps in their neighbourhood. Share City is a global platform that provides users with information about food sharing activities in their area.
If your council doesn’t have a Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) service and you don’t have a compost bin at home, you can still make sure your food scraps are composted via ShareWaste. The platform connects users with neighbours who have a compost, worm farm, or farm animals and are willing to accept food scraps from members of the community.
The Party Kit Network is a non-profit community project working to make parties more sustainable. By providing reusable party kits they offer an accessible and easy way to avoid waste from disposable and single-use products.
ECrent is a global sharing platform that allows members to rent or hire a range of goods and services including furniture, sporting equipment, cars, appliances, part supplies, tools, and professional services.
The sharing economy 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