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.


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. 



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.


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:

– whole lotta things people want to give away or swap

– helps you get to your destination without your own car

– have a holiday cheaply!

– stay fashionable through this clothes swapping website

– 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:


Building a sustainable future


Earlier this year, I felt that I wanted to ‘do something’. I felt that something was missing, that I needed to connect with my core values. A rejection or two also brought this home. I felt that rather than dwell in negativity, that I wanted to do something inspiring and something that was ‘about people’ and helping those in need in a tangible way.
Last year, I had bought a copy of the ‘The Big Issue’ which is a magazine sold by the homeless or long term unemployed. I had seen an ad for a volunteer program that went for one week. I felt that one week was something that I could do, so I went and found the magazine and found the ad. It was for ‘Habitat for Humanity’. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that supports those in need by helping them build houses.
I was immediately attracted. I thought ‘how wonderful to work with a community and help them build a house’! I looked through their catalogue of international projects and came upon the ‘Cambodia – Mekong Big Build’ later this year. After some discussion with my husband, I decided to put my name down.
So what is this build about? Here is some information:
‘After the closure of the Stueng Meanchey dumpsite in 2009, scavenger landless families dispersed in rental shacks all over the Phnom Penh. The Mekong Big Build in Cambodia is establishing a ‘new city’ within bicycling distance from the Stueng Meanchey dump site. The project is aiming to construct 50 affordable, rent-to-own housing for families who used to live in the dumpsite area. The location will allow them to find work in the city as well as develop new skills like gardening and sewing.’ (

A young boy peeks out of his small shack at Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump on Thursday, February 9, 2006 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  (Photo by Matthew Williams/ZUMA Press)
A young boy peeks out of his small shack at Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump on Thursday, February 9, 2006 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo by Matthew Williams/ZUMA Press)

I think it sounds like a wonderful project and I am thrilled to go and do something positive for those in need.
Now this is where I get my donations hat out ….as part of participating in the build, I am supposed to raise $2,000! Thanks to some kind donations, I have a start, but I have a long way to go. Here is where I hope the kindness and goodwill of friends, family and strangers will help me in reaching my target.
So how can you help? Please donate what you can towards my trip by going to the following link:
I would like to recognise those that support me and I will do that in the following ways:
• If you donate at least $AUD50 I will send you a ‘Thank you Card’ with a photo of me during the build.I will publish this on my blog and will promote through my networks. You will also receive a copy of this photo which you can keep or use to promote your contribution towards this great project.
• If you donate at least $AUD200 I will print a photo of you or your company logo on a T-shirt and wear this during my build with a message of thanks. I will take a photo and publish this on my blog and promote through my networks. In recognition of your wonderful contribution, you will also receive a copy of this photo for your own use or for further marketing.
• If you or your company donate at least $AUD400 I will not only wear a T-shirt with your picture or company logo, but I will also record a video message of thanks and upload this to my blog and publicise through my networks. You will also receive this clip which you can use on your or your company’s website to highlight your contribution towards helping families in Cambodia.

Thank you so much!

Cambodia children

An Open Letter to KMART

Dear Guy Russo,
I am a KMART customer and feel compelled to write this letter to voice my concern over KMART’s purchase of clothing ‘Made in Bangladesh’. The inhumane conditions that workers face in Bangladesh confronted me last November (24th of November 2012) after a fire at the Tazreen Fashion Factory killed 112 workers. Around this time I went to KMART to look for some pyjamas for my son, as it was heading into Summer and he didn’t have any summer pyjamas. I was attracted to some sale items with a price that was hard to beat. I then decided to look at where the product was made and saw that it was ‘Made in Bangladesh’.
I have previously seen ‘Made in Bangladesh’ clothing and was curious about this, though I didn’t fully give it a lot of thought. What did I know about Bangladesh at that time? I knew that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (population of 120 million people and 1,142.29 people per square kilometre compared to 2.9 people/sq. Km in Australia source: I knew that Bangladesh was one of the poorest countries in the world (in 1990 56.6% of people lived below the poverty line, but now that number is 31.5% source: Malnourishment of children is a significant issue (over 54% of pre-school children are classified as underweight). I also knew that Bangladesh is prone to flooding (because about 80% of Bangladesh sits in an alluvial delta barely 10 metres above sea level and is intersected by 230 rivers, flooding becomes a frequent occurrence after annual monsoons).
Now in this situation, having an industry like the clothing manufacturing industry may be seen as a way to alleviate poverty, to have an established industry and address some of the issues I’ve already discussed. Clothing manufacturing is said to account for 80% of Bangladesh’s annual exports.
But it is this very industry that has resulted in about 1,000 people dying in the last few weeks (8 people died resulting from a fire at Tung Hai Sweater Ltd. factory and 920 deaths resulted from the building collapse at Rana Plaza, source:
While I am not saying that KMART is directly associated with these factories, by having much of its clothing ‘Made in Bangladesh’ KMART is responsible for ensuring workers are paid a decent wage, are treated fairly and that their work environment is safe. The proper management of KMART’s supply chain is your responsibility.
I share this story, because as a mother of two and KMART customer, last year I made the decision not to buy the pyjamas and I have not purchased a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ garment from KMART since. As a customer, I would like to know the clothes that I purchase not only contribute towards the economy of a developing country, but not at the cost of human life. Mr Russo, I ask you to:
• Please sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. The Agreement, developed by Bangladeshi and global unions and labour rights organizations, provides for independent inspections of supplier factories, public reporting, training and mandatory repairs and renovations.
• Send a representative to Bangladesh to meet with the trade unions and labour organisations working directly with the affected workers to agree on next steps.
• Voice your concerns to the Bangladeshi government and demand that trade unions and their representatives are protected and consulted with to ensure the safety of your suppliers in Bangladesh.
By taking the above steps, not only will you see me return as one of your customers, but you will also be promoting KMART’s corporate social responsibility in a public manner. I am sure many other customers would love to see these positive steps taken and you will likely be rewarded by their trade and new customers.
Thank you

Elham Monavari