Consumers of the World, Unite!

There are more and more collaborative and shared consumption projects in North America and the EU, and more people embrace them, or, at least, are curious about them. And some examples are really creative and fascinating!

A reminder: collaborating consumption is a model of economy and culture based on the concepts of organized (mostly peer-to-peer) sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping principles. It connects people who own things they don’t use much, and are willing to share them, while reducing the need of the borrowers to purchase things and incur additional costs and the burden of ownership. And guess what, that helps lower the environmental impact and we hoard less stuff.

In the beginning, when the concept was still a novelty, it worked best for items that people need occasionally and infrequently, for example power drills or lawn mowers. But soon it became apparent that, as long as there is awareness about the service, there isn’t much that shouldn’t be shared (beyond underwear and toothbrushes?).

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Make no mistake, collaborative consumption is not a niche trend and it’s not a reactionary blip to the recession.It’s a socioeconomic groundswell that will transform the way companies think about their value propositions—and the way people fulfill their needs.

They can be categorised into:

Product service systems enable companies to offer goods as a service rather than sell them as products. Goods that are privately owned are shared or rented peer-to-peer. And these appeal to an increasing number of people shifting to a usage mind-set: They want the benefits of a product, but they don’t need to own the product outright.

In redistribution markets, used or preowned goods are moved from somewhere they are not needed to somewhere they are. Freecycle offers them for free (and there was Kashless which, ironically shut down because it ran out of funding), on thredUP and SwapTree it’s quid-pro-quo – items are swapped, on eBay, craigslist and gumtree re-sold for cash.

Other free gifts and exchanges can be found through: GiftFlowAround AgainGivmoZiilchExchangoFreallyYoogotThingLoopOodle.

It’s the key to sustainable commerce, making further progress after “reduce, reuse, recycle, repair” to redistribute.

In collaborative lifestyles people with similar needs or interests decide to share and exchange less-tangible assets (time, space, skills, and money). Examples include sharing storage spaces (Store@myHouse), working spaces (Citizen Space in San Francisco and Hub Culture in London), venues (EventUp), and parking spots (on Park@myHouse in the UK, ParkCirca in the US).

Although this usually works best on a local level, it has been known to branch out globally, such as peer-to-peer loans and money lending (Zopa and Lending Club), and crowdfunding (Kickstarter, indieGoGo, 40Billion, Citizinventor, KissKissBankBank, and Neighbor.ly).

Step it up with: renewable energies – Solar CitySolar CenturyPretaSolOne Block Off The GridCitizenRe.

Bike-sharing, obviously, has gained quite the following. This is great because it prompted a lot of cities to improve cycling infrastructure!

Netflix and LoveFilm are also already well-established businesses. They provide film rentals or online viewings, and have, in the process, built up a comprehensive library of independent, foreign, documentary, and of course hollywood blockbuster films.

car2go: (appears to be quite popular in downtown Miami, which is what prompted this whole post) a fleet of electric, energy-efficient Smart cars that you can hop into, using your member card, wherever you see them parked and drive to your desired location. They call it intelligent mobility. Pros: no gas expenses, no emissions, no parking costs, no annual fees. Cons: the car might not be there when you come out (they’re all one-way cars; meaning that whichever member sees it parked and has a need for it can hop in and drive off).

Cars are big on sharing, which is great! More examples: ZipcarRelayRidesZimrideNurideLiftshareJayridegoCarShareGoLocoMitfahrengelegenheitCaronetasDuckSeatRewardRideAvegoZebigo. Google ‘carpool’ or ‘rideshare’, there are so many options – they’re mainly local or regional, for obvious reasons. Even taxis have gone co-op: FareShareNYC.

Apartments, houses, barges, and an odd VW van! Airbnb is a wildly popular platofrm where people rent out their homes, rooms, attics, basements, backyards, boats, etc. Ever since they created the neighbourhoods section, I cannot stop daydreaming, but mostly I’m nostalgic for Rio, London or NYC.

Although unsurpassed in terms of variety of options and worldwide coverage, it still has some competition (or copycats): Wimdu, Roomorama, OneFineStay, Kozaza – all based on the same concept (rentals). There are also swapping options: HouseSwap, HomeExchange, Knok, and HomeLink.

Still, nothing says collaboration, community and openness like CouchSurfing.

MrCollection: a subscription-based clothes rental service that sends outfits to its clients (men only) according to their choice of category: Original – Dapper – or Casual. It promotes itself as a helping men seeking style, but it’s also based on the principles of sharing: the clients wear and return the outfits without limits or late fees. They don’t purchase stuff, but still have things to trendy things to wear – it helps save money, stop unnecessary purchases of cheap fashions, and comes with a fool-proof style advice. Also for the guys: Tie Try and Tie Society. Now we need a Ms. Collection. (edit: of course someone’s ahead of me – Le Tote)

Still more in fashion: BagBorrowOrStealRentTheRunway, SecondTimeAroundFashionHire, BorrowedBling, RentMeAHandbag, LendingLuxury, and FashionFurniture.

PiggyBee: a service that connects people with travellers for the purpose of shipping or delivering something. Called a collaborative shipping network, it invites people to enter their travel plans into the system and specify what kind of award/compensation they’re looking for (a pick up from the airport? a drink? destination info/tips?). The shippers, meanwhile, include where and what they’d like delivered. OF COURSE you’d be wise to check that you’re not  purposely made a mule [an illegal drug courier]. Unlikely, but likely, too.

More like it: Parcelio connects through Facebook, Stuff2Send uses bidding, EasyBring, etc.

General services and tasks: SittingAround (babysitting), HouseCarers, Kutoto (get someone to run your errands), or if you prefer to call them personal assistants look here.

Agriculture and the issue of food is a major one. We all eat, after all. Planting and growing own produce has become more of a trend since all the GMO scare (looking at you, Monsanto). Sharing gardens through SharedEarth and AmpleHarvest in the US, Landshare in the UK.

Sharing meals and not eating alone, sharing leftovers, home-cooked meals, all that now exists: ShareYourMeal and MealSharing, BeyondCroissant, and CityFruit.

And, finally, just people. Rent-A-Friend!, a neighbour, get a date, or a guide, need a butler? an assistant? someone will be glad to do it..

~

Do you see the trend here?

Almost all of them are attempting to put people back in touch with one another and their immediate community, to (literally) open more doors, and again create a tighter community that was lost somewhere along the way when we started buying bigger houses and cars and overdosing on TV, PCs and other virtual realities and, in that way, hiding from our real lives, or even losing the sight of what’s real any more.

Why have some of these platforms or services grown and others have not (or they grew at the expense of others?). Possibly because they have shown a better ability to create stronger communities.. or is there a limit to what can be shared, to what we are willing to share?

Any other ideas?

So many of these ideas/projects I found only when I started researching this piece. Exciting!!

THIS POST NEEDED AN UPDATE

Browse ideas.

Be grateful that you’re part of a global community.

Stop wasting.

Reuse.

Unplug more often.

Be conscious of your actions.

Smile.

Be generous.

Repeat.

Part of a series on consumerism and identity and conscious consumption, inspired by UNEP’s World Environment Day campaign. 

In developed and developing countries, people are acquiring much more than what they actually need and therefore producing an enormous amount of waste. 

Focus your actions for World Environment Day this year to an activity that promotes sustainable consumption and be part of the society which helps reshape the future!

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11 thoughts on “Consumers of the World, Unite!

  1. Libraries! They reduce, reuse, recycle, redistribute, repair ….
    What a great guidance through variety of use & reuse options. And thank you for sharing this and spreading educational words about it.
    Plus, an amazing creativity on the side of those who are offering it. Isn’t it something!

  2. Amazing summary and a very useful and detailed directory. Lovely!

  3. Used to love the Swaptree.com site, renamed the Swap.com site, but it has just rebranded itself and is now undesirable from my point of view (no more media swpapped). Interestingly enough, there is an attempt to revive the concept as a non-profit website, if it can get off the ground: http://www.mediaswap.org/

  4. Pingback: Recap: Twitter finds of the w/c April 22 « Mind, Nature & Society

  5. I’m not certain that I agree 100% in your blog post, but I did find the topic and the direction intriguing. Maybe sometime in the future

  6. Pingback: Consumers of the World, Unite! : Living Green Magazine

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