A new sharing society
Party kits are part of the new sharing economy, but what does that mean? Mary Connors explains what this new way of consuming means for our communities and our planet.
What is the sharing economy?
The sharing economy is a dynamic concept covering a diverse range of peer-to-peer transactions. It goes by other labels such as collaborative consumption, shared ownership, collaborative economy and pay-as-you-use economy, but at its core is a new sharing society.
As opposed to the traditional economic model, the sharing model is where goods and resources are exchanged between individuals or groups. The emphasis is on access instead of ownership, particularly on short-term lease.
While essentially it's not a new concept as individuals and communities have been sharing their assets for many years (libraries, subletting spare rooms etc), in recent years it has been facilitated by online platforms. The digitalisation of sharing has enabled a greater number of services and things to be exchanged between more people than ever before.
And it’s not only tech advancements that have increased the popularity of this concept. People are now more concerned with the amount of stuff they purchase and the impact this has on the environment. The sharing model is part of a broader move towards a circular economy that eliminates wasted assets
In the circular economy, products and services are designed to enable frequent reuse. The 3 main principles behind a circular system are:
eliminate waste and pollution
circulate products and materials
How can we consume more sustainably?
The sharing model is a key method to achieving a more circular form of production and consumption.
Sharing verses owning means:
your assets are better utilised. Rather than owning something you don’t need to use that much (power tools are a great example) you can share or rent with others who need it. The tool is more efficiently used, wasted space is freed up and potential income can be generated.
you only pay for what you need. Temporary access through borrowing or renting is more efficient than the burden and cost of ownership.
Great for the environment
When resources and products are shared between individuals there is less need to produce new stuff. This means less energy and materials are used lessening the load on the environment.
In a survey about consumer attitudes to sustainability carried out by Deloitte, 39% of respondents said they had reduced the number of new products and goods they bought due to environmental concerns.
“This bodes well for the sharing economy business models that hit many of the top requirements of consumers: waste reduction, reducing carbon footprint, providing sustainable packaging, committing to ethical work practices, and respecting human rights." Rebecca Heaps, Tentshare Founder
Examples of the sharing economy
One of the key benefits of sharing over buying is that you can get access on a as-needed basis. As sharing is becoming more mainstream, lots of stuff is becoming available for conscious consumers.
For example, partyware goes from disposable to sustainable when it is reused and shared. Party Kits contain reusable tableware and as an added benefit are lent locally between community members.
This model of peer-to-peer renting is also the basis of Tentshare. An online platform, Tentshare connects people who want to hire a tent with those who those who have a tent they aren't using on a regular basis.
Both Party Kits and Tentshare give access to a needed item, without everyone investing in ownership, and contribute to the local economy.
"The peer-to-peer model, being the purest sharing form, allows items to generate an income for the owner, helping the local economy. If you rent a tent through Tentshare then the money will typically go back to like-minded individuals within the local community." Rebecca Heaps, Tentshare Founder
The sharing economy isn't limited to the peer-to-peer model. Sharing initiatives such as the Library of Things give users access to specialised equipment like power drills and carpet cleaners from a community hub. People can rent the equipment daily or weekly and return it when finished - a great way to cut down on household clutter, free up storage space and reduce costs.
One of the key ways to cut our collective carbon footprint is to reduce waste and one of the main offenders is single-use or disposable packaging. The people behind Packshare, an online platform that allows businesses to trade used packaging are attempting to tackle this problem. Packshare offers a searchable database where businesses can find and use waste packaging from their local community.
ShareWaste is another online platform with a mission not just to reduce food waste but turn it into a useful resource for others. It gives individuals the opportunity to donate their leftover food scraps to neighbours who are composting, worm-farming or keeping farm animals.
It's not just stuff which can be shared within the local community. A fun way for dog lovers to help each other out, BorrowMyDoggy connects local dog owners who need a dog sitter with neighbours who want to look after them. The dog owners get a trusted local to look after their pets and the borrowers get a chance to spend time with a new pooch pal.
Turning buyers into borrowers
All the different types of solutions mentioned offer people a more efficient and sustainable choice, turning people into borrowers rather than buyers. By becoming part of the sharing society people are consuming in a more thoughtful way. There is not only less stuff produced but the items shared are treated with more care, promoting not just a sustainable form of consumption but a responsible one.
If you enjoyed this blog post, read more of Mary's work here.