The business realm has been buzzing recently with talk of peer-to-peer marketplaces’ success. National companies such as Groupon, LivingSocial, Uniiverse, Airbnb, and more locally popular companies such as Craig’s List, Zipcar and College Cambio all share the underlying principle of collaborative consumption.
Though this socio-economic movement promoting sharing, trading and renting rather than owning is a new phenomenon, there have been startups across the globe capitalizing on this idea. It seems that for every good or service there is now a convenient way to share it.
For most of human history, we have shared. Farmers once shared tools they used infrequently to save money, and neighbors shared food and household goods. It is an ancient economic model that we used up until the dawn of the 20th century, when overconsumption became the norm and the motto became “more more more”. It wasn’t until the early 70s that people began to realize that this new lifestyle was unsustainable and recognize that changes needed to be made.
Redistribution services, collaborative lifestyles and product service systems all take the age-old idea of sharing and thrust it into the 21st century. By utilizing advanced networking technologies to connect people like never before, we can now access transportation, apparel, food, living accommodations and travel opportunities, without relying on high- cost, newly-minted goods. We can save money and the planet without losing the fortunate lifestyles to which we have become accustomed.
Maybe it’s because of the recession or maybe it’s a lasting shift in consumer perspectives, but there is no denying that companies promoting a sharing economy are gaining momentum in today’s marketplace. The ethos of sharing is appealing to the public in and of itself, and people are realizing that there is value in utilizing their communities. Not only can they save or earn money (the average Airbnb host in New York earns $21,000 annually), but they can also save the planet by efficiently allocating resources. That reduces waste, ultimately reducing our collective footprint and cultivating a more sustainable lifestyle.
Through sharing with each other, we can not only maintain or improve our quality of life by saving money and accessing the same quality goods, but we can also show that we care about the environment by reducing our overall consumption. It’s no wonder TIME Magazine named collaborative consumption one of 2010’s “Ten ideas that will change the world”. It sounds like a pretty revolutionary idea to me.