Eleanor Tucker, author of Thanks for Sharing, shares six ideas for how we can share what we have within our communities. Eleanor shows how we can have a positive environmental impact by borrowing what we need rather than buying.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already familiar with the sharing economy, but if you’re not, here’s a quick explainer. The sharing economy means using technology – in the form of an app or an online platform – to connect with other people to borrow, rent or swap instead of buying.
In other words, it’s anything which could be described as ‘the Airbnb of…’ like listing your clothes on a website for others to borrow, or renting a car from your neighbour via an app. And it’s certainly catching on – the total value of the global sharing economy is predicted to increase to around 335 billion US dollars by 2025, from only 15 billion US dollars in 2014 . That’s a big increase, and it shows that this ‘access over ownership’ way of doing things is not just a passing phase.
One of the most obvious benefits of using the sharing economy is that it can make – or save – us money. But it also allows us to get more use from things that we don’t use very much, or don’t use at all. The fact is, the world has too many things in it, and when people share use of the same ‘thing’, it slows down the production of more of them, and cuts down on waste.
And not only that, sharing means we get the chance to ‘dip into’ something and experience it without commitment, connect with our local communities and make new friends. Are you ready to explore the world of sharing? Here are six ways to start today.
1. Share food
If food waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world . So why not try and cut down on waste by using a food sharing app to get rid of leftovers, or pick up some free food from someone near you that would have otherwise been thrown away? You can also find great apps for finding cut-price goodies going spare at cafés and restaurants nearby. Apps like these stop food ending up in landfill and help make the cost of groceries more manageable too.
2. Share clothes
Instead of buying fast fashion, which we all know is often produced unethically and ends up in landfill, why not experiment with renting clothes from other people using clothes sharing apps? And if you’ve already got a stylish wardrobe, you can hire items out to make a bit of extra cash. Clothes sharing is also a great way to try styles you wouldn’t normally wear without committing, or maybe going for something more high-end.
3. Share pets
If you’re not sure about getting a dog, it might be worth thinking about the huge global carbon footprint of pet food production. There’s the whole poo problem too: did you know that pets in the US produce the same amount of poo as 90 million humans, basically a country’s worth, with a huge CO2 output attached . Sharing a dog with someone local on a pet sharing platform means you can try out ownership to see if it’s right for you, or just enjoy the company of a four-legged friend part time.
4. Share ‘stuff’
‘Stuff sharing’ aims to address waste of occasional-use domestic items: exactly the same problem as Party Kit Network is aiming to solve for partyware. If you need something like a carpet cleaner or a hedge trimmer, you can use ‘stuff’ sharing platforms and apps to rent one from a neighbour. And of course if your garage is already full of this kind of thing, you can list it to make some cash instead. A lot of electrical items are used only occasionally, but their manufacture has a massive carbon footprint.
5. Share interiors
Furniture sharing has huge green credentials, as furniture is a big thing to put in landfill, and there’s a lot of it going in too. It also means you can have things in your home you wouldn’t normally be able to afford, or tap into interior design trends temporarily without wasting money. Most of these websites are at an early stage and some offer a mix of rental (various brands list what they have for people to rent instead of buy), and pure peer-to-peer (individuals listing homeware items that may be in storage or are not often used).
6. Share your car
Finally, you can share your car on an online platform. Car sharing allows people who only want to drive occasionally the option to use your vehicle, helping reduce the amount of vehicles in your local area, and earning you some extra cash too. And if you don’t want to own a car, borrowing one when you need it means you save money on things like tax and insurance – and if more people do this, fewer cars will get manufactured.
The brilliant thing about sharing is that we’ve always done it. These apps and websites are just helping to revive age-old ways of being part of collaborative communities. And remember, these are just six ways to share, there are plenty more. Try one – then you might find that once you start, you’ll be hooked.
About Eleanor Tucker
Eleanor Tucker is author of Thanks for Sharing: How I Gave Up Buying and Embraced Borrowing, Swapping and Renting and a consultant specialising in sharing economy businesses.