Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What is Collaborative Consumption?

A week ago I had never heard of collaborative consumption and now I am seeing it everywhere. Collaborative consumption is the idea of trading, swapping, sharing or renting access to products and services rather than individual ownership. Although the concept has been around for awhile it has really taken off thanks to an explosion of new technologies such as smart phones and provides a new economic model for our consumer driven world.

Transport is a great place to find examples of collaborative consumption. Car sharing web sites provide the ability for city goers to get rid of their cars and only rent a shared car when they need one. Some of the companies provide the cars such as http://www.cityhop.co.nz/ (NZ) and http://www.zipcar.com (US) providing hourly rental rates where cars are parked all over the city ready for pickup. Renting is as simple as booking the car and using smartcards to unlock and drive away. Other sites go even further and provide true peer-to-peer sharing services such as http://www.whipcar.com/ (UK).

Bicycle hire is a fast growing initiative in many cities around the world. Centred on the idea that commuters rent a bicycle from one location and drop it off at another bike stand location across the city. It is a fantastic system for reducing short distance car and bus trips and greatly improves a cities transport options. London (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14808.aspx) and Paris (http://www.paris.com/tourism/bike_hire_in_paris) have both implemented cycle hire systems and Paris has even gone as far as providing the first hour free. I would love to see this concept rolled out across all the cities in the world. Hey if London can successfully implement this initiative even with it's high bicycle theft rates than any city can.

http://www.landshare.net (UK) is one of the ideas that I think has real potential to change the way we live in this world. Building on the concept of community gardens and allotments (something there is simply not enough of), Landshare matches up people who want to grow their own food with others who have land to spare. I am a huge advocate of eating locally produced food in order to improve your local economy and reduce unnecessary long distance transportation and Landshare provides a way to not only buy local but to actually grow it yourself no matter what your living arrangements.

Accommodation is another area in which new collaborative communities are growing rapidly. http://www.couchsurfing.org/ connects travellers with locals allowing members to host travellers in their home. People can offer anything from a spare room to a couch for their visitors. CouchSurfing relies on a trading principle as hosts don't request payment, instead hosts will invariably use the services of some other host when they travel somewhere in the world. Whereas http://www.crashpadder.com provides the ability for people to hire out a room in their house just like a hotel.

And then there are the numerous product swapping sites out there from clothes (http://swishing.com) to books (http://bookmooch.com/) and new takes on the old library system such as toy libraries which are popping up all around the world http://toylibrary.co.nz/.

One of my all time favourite sites at the moment is Donate NZ (www.donatenz.com) which matches donators who have time or goods to give with charities who need them. You can browse all of the wishes of current charities at any time to see if you can help. It can be anything from a charity needing a new laptop to needing someone to help them paint a room (http://www.donatenz.com/Donate/BrowseWishList.aspx). 

Collaborative consumption is a movement that is being driven by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers through their book: What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. I'll be tracking down the book at my local library so watch this space for an update. Also known as the "sharing economy", collaborative consumption could provide a new economic approach allowing us to move away from the consumerism nature of our society providing a more sustainable, community driven way of life.

References
http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com/
"Share Options" in Big Issue UK

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