A New Economy Based on Sharing

Did you know that the average power drill only gets used 6 to 13 minutes in its lifetime? Think of all the resources it took to produce that drill and countless other products like it… and sharing begins to make perfect sense from an environmental standpoint.

We’re all familiar with the concept of sharing, but “collaborative consumption” takes sharing to a new level.  It not only counteracts the extensive consumption that’s caused many of our greatest environmental challenges: it strengthens our community ties, too. Access (to tools, shelter, and other resources) is taking the place of ownership in the new economy, and it’s freeing us up for the things that really enrich our lives: family, friends and experiences.

There are things we’re already used to sharing, such as books at the library, but with online networks it’s easy to match available goods and services with needs. Here are some of the most exciting developments in this new “access economy”:

Housing: The average home size in the U.S. is 2300 square feet. In the U.K., it’s just 818 square feet. There’s no denying the glut of large homes in the U.S. adds tremendously to our energy consumption. Creative housing options like co-housing and other types of intentional communities not only lessen this consumption, but foster a stronger sense of neighborliness with the addition of more communal areas.

Office Space: Freelancers and other independent business owners often don’t have the funds to purchase office equipment and can occasionally suffer from isolation. Coworking gives people the chance to share resources and ideas and socialize in a common space.

Energy: It might seem that the only choices one has when purchasing energy is to go through the utility or put solar panels on one’s roof, but there’s a third way: community-owned renewable energy. Projects like Oakland, California’s Solar Mosaic and Jefferson, Iowa’s Hardin Hilltop Wind Farm allow individuals and businesses to purchase “shares” in a local renewable energy project that provides their electricity.

Transportation: Within the last decade, bike sharing has seen explosive growth in cities around the world. The humble bike is now at the center of the fastest growing form of transportation in the world. This summer, New York City will launch its own bike share program with 10,000 bikes. Car sharing has also taken off, with companies like car2go and RelayRides joining names like Zipcar. Even the big automakers are funding and developing car sharing programs.

Tools: Tool libraries give neighbors access to a huge selection of tools for any possible home improvement or construction project without needing to purchase those tools. Community workshops like Durham, North Carolina’s TechShop give people access to sophisticated equipment for endless creative and practical pursuits.

Time: It’s not just physical objects that can be shared. Time banks allow neighbors to barter skills with one another. Car repair, music lessons and video editing are just a few of the potential skilled services people can “deposit” in a time bank for exchange.

Sharing starts with you! Here’s a great resource guide from Shareable and the Center for a New American Dream on ways to get sharing started in your community.

Do you have a successful sharing story you’d like to, well -- share?  Tell us about it in our comments below, or visit us on Facebook to let us know how sharing worked for you!


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this is certainly (finally!!!!) a step in the right direction... grow local value. read sacred economics... dream on, america! dream on...

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