In the 20th century we got used to a certain way of thinking: if you needed something, you bought it. Cars, houses, furniture, you name it. The birth of e-commerce giants such as eBay and Amazon created an unprecedented global overflow of stuff. Ownership had become about being someone; it was a way of defining who you are. The gaining popularity of social media platforms and influencers encouraged people to buy more and more.
Then Airbnb and Uber come along and start a new trend which we call the sharing economy.
What is the sharing economy? A sharing economy is defined as an economic system in which assets and services are shared between private individuals. Wikipedia, for instance, came about as a platform where users could voluntarily contribute and share knowledge.
Now, the sharing economy is more than a decade old. The term first surfaced sometime around 2007, the year that brought us both the iPhone and the Global Financial Crisis. The iPhone helped put the internet and GPS into people’s pockets. The Global Financial Crisis helped make the new smartphone users desperate and savvy. These two developments dovetailed to sow the seeds of the sharing economy: consumers were looking for new ways to save, workers were looking for new ways to earn, and smartphones gave them both new ways to transact (source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/17/sharing-economy-capitalism-uber-airbnb-ownership).
The sharing economy has come a long way and inspired many others to create platforms to allow people to share resources, and also earn an income out of them.
Let’s imagine you don’t have a job, your house is mortgaged, you have a decent car and a shed full of random stuff that you have accumulated over the years.
Let’s see how you can make at least $4000 A MONTH just by sharing your stuff with others.
$1000 by renting out your spare room on Airbnb.
$400 from renting out your sewing machine, surfboard, mower and other random stuff around your house on ReShare platform.
$3000 for using your car to drive for Uber.
$1000 for using your van to deliver goods on SubTrux.
$500 from renting out your idle car when you are not driving on Car Next Door.
$200 from helping someone with gardening on Airtasker.
(This is my estimation based on my own experience using these platforms throughout the years)
On the other hand, for all of the above reasons, we don’t really need to own as much stuff to live a comfortable life.
What is so revolutionary about the sharing economy then? Why is it good not to own things? There are two main reasons and these are related: First, ownership costs a lot of money and doesn’t necessarily equal wealth. Second, the planet cannot survive with us consuming so much stuff.
When we buy things we easily get bored with them and forget they exist or use them only because we own them. On-demand is about using things when we actually need them. It leads to more effective use of resources. Uber gets more people to use the same car and ReShare gets more people to use the same Thermomix (which costs thousands to buy).
It takes a large number of natural resources to manufacture a car, house, or smartphone in the first place. We are now running out of those resources and burying the waste that goes into manufacturing is not the solution.
Let’s talk about a product life cycle.
We can’t just “throw something away”, the only thing we do is label something as refuse and let it enter another part of the so-called Product Life Cycle (https://medium.com/swlh/the-death-of-ownership-8da9445261da)
A simple $10 t-shirt (or its components) might have been on more continents that the wearer has travelled in their lifetime.
Before you can use them, they have been assembled in sometimes extremely complex ways and many different locations. With the ease of shipping physical goods around the globe, a simple $10 t-shirt (or its components) might have been on more continents that the wearer has travelled in their lifetime.
Imagine the time and resources it takes to make and recycle a simple coffee cup lid, which you are effectively using for 5 minutes
Sharing thing works best when there is a trusted and trustworthy system of responsibility. This trust takes time to develop or the right system is put in place.
How do these sharing economy platforms build trust within their members?
There are multiples ways that the company can build trust among its members. Airbnb has a great insurance policy that gives confidence to hosts to share their own property with strangers. Uber has vetted their drivers with Police Checks to make sure they don’t let criminals find a way to cause trouble. ReShare has a deposit mechanism that let the item’s owners decide how much they would like to be compensated in the case their item is damaged or lost.
Accountability and transparency cut both ways. ReShare encourages owners to rate borrowers and borrowers to rate owners. Uber, the popular and fast-growing car-hailing service, ensures that its drivers can rate customers just as surely as customers rate drivers. The goal here is obvious: create a symmetry of accountability and transparency between parties. Whether you’re driving or hailing a car – or renting or lending a lawnmower – you know you’re being rated and that those ratings are made public.
It’s clear that as our planet’s resources are becoming more scarce, the sharing economy role in our future is becoming increasingly important. ReShare amongst many others is one of the platforms that will help reduce our footprint and a more sustainable way of life.