Environmental Benefits of the Sharing Economy

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By Mike Childs:

"In this article, I argue that the growth of digital communications enables ‘sharing’ to become the new focus for the environmental movement. Through sharing, we can deliver much greater resource efficiency; we can deliver a green economy; we can deliver community aspirations and quality of life.

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Resource efficiency

It is understandable but surely, at the same time, nonsensical for everybody in a town or city to own their own power tools that are barely used. Many of us have far too many books on our shelves, most of which will only be read once. Cars sit on driveways or streets for much of their lives. For some, rooms in their homes remain unused. What a waste! Shareable.net is full of examples of how the digital age allows sharing of these to become easy.

Through sharing, expenditure can be reduced, opportunities can be opened up for low-income households to access resources currently out of their reach, and community engagement can be fostered.

But, importantly, sharing also reduces resource use.

David Mackay, the Chief Scientist for the Department of Energy in the UK, estimated that almost half of an average person’s energy consumption is the stuff we buy and its transportation to us. Imagine the huge resource savings and reduced greenhouse gases that could emerge from sharing stuff.

Surely this has a much greater impact than simply end-of-life recycling can achieve?


Sharing as a counter-cultural movement

In the UK, our politicians have desperately urged us to shop to help get the UK out of recession. They celebrate housing costs rising again, despite the fact that the price of even renting a home is unaffordable for many. They ignore the problem that indebtedness was the root cause of the financial crisis. The economic model they pursue requires us to buy more and more stuff.

Professor Agyeman argues in his think-piece that sharing can be a counter-cultural movement -- it pushes back against the individualistic and materialistic economic model pursued by the UK government and others. Through sharing, we value relationships more than things, he says.

It is clear to most sane people that the planet cannot sustain a global consumerist capitalist model. It is not possible for 8-10 billion people to each own a car, a thousand books, and a power drill. Following this path may enable the economy to flourish for a while, but the environment will collapse.

As environmentalists, we need to embrace sharing: It is not only a great opportunity; it is an environmental necessity.

Sharing cars, books, tools can also be expanded to shared, community-owned energy; shared 3D printing facilities; and communal office spaces. Shared ideas, green space, seeds, air, and water have been with us since we set foot on the earth but need protecting." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/the-power-of-sharing-a-call-to-action-for-environmentalists)