I just read a fascinating article about the rise of the new sharing economy. Reading it was, to use a cliché, a breath of fresh air. I was getting so sick of constantly hearing about new products being pumped into the market place, of rampant consumerism, about the way so many people find it necessary to own a car and an iPhone. Environmental destruction is largely occurring due to our society’s insatiable, wasteful quest for more.
In the sharing economy, the goods that are already out there are shared in a consumer-to-consumer model. This is a win-win: it is more economical and more eco-conscious.
In a Ted talk, a tech entrepreneur named Lisa Gansky made a very valid, if shocking, point: people, on average, use their cars only about 8 percent of the time (and probably could get by with using it a lot less). Cars are, however, the most expensive thing people own/lease next to their residence. Enter a slew of car-sharing start-ups.
Airbnb is one of the fastest growing companies out there. Craigslist and eBay have been a hit for years. There are several other companies that exemplify this concept in different ways. Some are for-profit, others not. Some are completely free (you can borrow someone’s bike for a few hours, for example) while others cost, but cost a lot less than buying new.
So you could borrow a boat, BBQ, or Park City condo the few times you really want/need it instead of paying for it new and then having it lie around unused for years.
I really like this concept of using what already exists instead of generating more and more. I find it a good way to, if not completely eschew capitalism and consumerism, to at least find a happy medium, a compromise. I think it also forces people to stop mindlessly acquiring and really think about what they need, perhaps focusing more on experiences rather than things. I came across an infographic that illustrates how my generation, while still in the pursuit of the American Dream, equates it less with owning a car and a house as status symbols of having made it and more as finding a unique path to fulfillment.