The sharing economy is one of the many alternative economic models to our current capitalist system. In our Sustainability section, I briefly talk about alternative economies such as steady state economy, circular economy, sharing economy, and economic degrowth.
Sharing economy is also known as collaborative consumption.
As its name suggests it, it is a system where people share the use of products and services. Ownership of a product is replaced with the service it provides.
Example 1: Tool Library
For instance, nobody needs to use a lawn mower, drill or wheelbarrow everyday. Yet we buy and accumulate those tools that most people use only once in a while. Instead, we have seen in the US and other countries the emergence of tool libraries. Just like the system of a standard library where you would register to borrow books, here you have access to garden, building and maintenance tools when you need them.
Example 2: House-sitting
Another example of a sharing economy scheme is house and pet-sitting. Tobi and I are part of the MindAHome network, where we offer our home and pet-sitting services to look after the home, garden and/or pets of owners who are going away for a while. This is a great trade of services where owners are happy that their home, garden and pets are well-looked after. Their animals don’t need to go to shelters or be alone all day, and sitters get to stay rent-free and give (and get !) much love to / from furry and feathery friends.
This system doesn’t involve any money, apart from a very affordable annual registration for sitters (owners register for free). It also provides a real estate alternative to many dwellings left empty for a fair amount of time. Tobi and I have been living “homeless” (or rather should we say “homeful”) for over a year now.
Example 3: Airbnb & Uber
Of course, many of you also know about Airbnb, where home owners with spare space can offer lodging. So in this case the product shared is a home, and the service is overnight stay.
Same spirit with Uber where the product is a car and the service is taxi / cab driving.
Example 4: Food swap
One last example of sharing economy system is produce swap, and this makes particularly great sense in the permaculture community. People who turn their lawns and backyards into productive areas grow fruits, veggies and sometimes other produces such as eggs. They can then swap them at the market for other varieties. Say you grow eggplants and zucchinis and get too many of them, you can exchange them for your neighbour’s tomatoes, beans or beetroots.
The most profitable activity you can make from your food is to eat it. As soon as you sell or buy food, you pay intermediate parties at the very least, and storage and transportation costs often.
Last but not least, food grown by your local community reduces food miles and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Best of all, it is usually much more nutritious and tasty.
Sharing Economy & Social Permaculture
The sharing economy constitutes a good example of Social Permaculture and fits nicely with the 3 Ethics:
– Care for the Earth: By sharing products and services, people make a unified effort to significantly reduce their global consumption. This reduces the need for exploiting natural resources.
– Care for the People: By sharing products and services, people connect and collaborate. You get to know your neighbour, your local community, and this encourages us to look after one another. By extension, it restore values such as trust, honesty, kindness, empathy.
– Fair Share: This is the obvious one and encompasses sharing surplus resources, exchanging, bartering, trading and creating win-win situations.
Sharing Economy: The 3rd Industrial Revolution?
I here recommend to watch the feature-length documentary “The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy”.
Social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin talks about how exponential exhaustion of natural resources, declining productivity, slow growth, rising unemployment, and steep inequality force us to rethink our economic model. He lays-out a road map to usher in a new system.
The documentary unfolds with the convergence of pivotal technologies connected to the Internet of Things and embedded across society and the environment.
He explains how this 21st century smart digital infrastructure is giving rise to a radical new sharing economy that is transforming the way we manage, power and move economic life.
You can watch the doco for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX3M8Ka9vUA