Can Collaborative Consumption Save the World?

Since moving back to Sydney, there have been some terms that I was not used to hearing when I lived in the UAE, like the GFC (Global Financial Crisis). It’s not that people didn’t talk about it – it’s just that it wasn’t called the GFC (Australian’s love to shorten words!).

Another term that I have come to hear, particularly since returning to work has been ‘collaborative consumption’.  What is collaborative consumption? Well in simple terms, it is the notion of ‘sharing is caring…’ and ‘one person’s waste is another’s treasure’ – you know what you tell your kids constantly as they grab toys from each other and fight over things.

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In the context of the adult world, ‘sharing is caring’ is being facilitated by technology and internet based groups like ‘Freecycle’ , ‘Airbnb’ and ‘Swaptree’.  These sites help connect the people that have something to give with those that want that item/good/service. 

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You could say that as a result of the GFC, that Collaborative Consumption has grown significantly. Once you hit a point where you look back at the rapid consumerism that typified life before the GFC, you start to think ‘goodness – did I need all that stuff’? ‘who convinced me that I needed all that stuff?’ ‘now that I have all this stuff that I don’t use, what do I do with it?’

I don’t think the idea of collaborative consumption in itself is anything new. I mean surely people gave away their unwanted baby clothes and toys before? And surely people let each other borrow things? And what about libraries and video stores?

What I do think is that now, through the internet your network can be expanded significantly beyond  your friends and neighbour and the types of goods swapped or traded can vary a lot more from an old bike to office space or your knowledge. It is a great way of connecting with other like minded people and helps create a sense of community, even if it is in cyber spaces.

Now the question is: can collaborative consumption save the world? While I don’t think it can fully save the world, I believe that it is an exciting time to be looking and re-defining our notion of ownership – hey it might even free up a lot of room in your house and also save you money. I think it also helps to elongate the life of products, which is so important in reducing wastage and managing resources more efficiently.

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While I have signed up to ‘Freecycle’, I have not actively used it, but I can give some examples from my life more recently and really, it has just been about talking to friends, neighbours and colleagues:

–          I recently went camping and rather than go and buy all the camping stuff, I borrowed most things from a close friend’s family for this trip. I hope to continue to do this, rather than go and buy all camping gear that will inevitably sit in my garage gathering dust for the 98% of the time I don’t use it;

–          All the clothes and shoes that my sister has given to me that my daughter now gets to enjoy. It has saved me a lot of money and she has great fashion sense, so I never have to worry about my daughter not having a nice dress or something warm to roll around in;

–          The Thomas the Tank Engine set borrowed from my sister in law. It has made my son one very happy chappy and has saved me a lot of money in buying all the Thomas figurines, bridges, cranes etc for this phase in his life (who knows he is particularly obsessed with trains and it may last….);

–          Going over to our neighbour’s house to cut some wood using their power saw, saved my husband a lot of energy;

–          Having my family close means that we can often share food. When I haven’t cooked, or can’t be bothered cooking to have a healthy home cooked meal from my mum is so great. I try to return the favour also!

–          Sharing gardening tips and seeds with colleagues and friends. After all sharing is caring!

So how do you start to do this?

Check out some of these websites:

–          https://www.freecycle.org/ whole lotta things people want to give away or swap

–          http://www.jayride.com.au/ helps you get to your destination without your own car

–          https://www.airbnb.com.au/ have a holiday cheaply!

–          http://www.swapstyle.com/ stay fashionable through this clothes swapping website

–          http://www.meetup.com/ meet people that share your ideas and passions

These site are only a start. I’m sure there are many many more.  You might even want to start your own group.

Do you have any ‘sharing is caring’ examples to share with other ‘Eco-mummy’ readers?

Further reading:

http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_case_for_collaborative_consumption.html

http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com/

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~ by em0navari on December 28, 2013.

2 Responses to “Can Collaborative Consumption Save the World?”

  1. Reducing our foot print is a big challenge – reusing items is a good step! Then looking at the “real need” for our next items – maybe purchasing items that are always reusable for our everyday activities would be ideal. Sharing this post over at Eco Tums (www.facebook.com/EcoTums)

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