The Sharing Economy is The Next Step in Sustainability

Most of us think about how we can live more eco friendly lives. Maybe you recycle. Maybe you bike to work a couple of times a week. Maybe you only buy from ethical companies or are trying to transition into a lower-meat diet. These are all things that can create more environmental sustainability in our society. If you’re doing any of these things, the Spacer team is cheering you on! We’re also doing our best to practice sustainability in our community!

And, in addition to these conscious changes that you may have been making in your daily life, you might also be contributing to sustainability without even realizing it. If you engage in the sharing economy, congratulations! You’ve been helping to promote sustainability in your community, even if you weren’t really thinking about being eco friendly at the time.

In this article, we’re going to explore the ways in which the sharing economy promotes sustainability. So, if you’re already a person who is active in the sharing economy, you’ll feel a little bit better about ordering that rideshare at the end of the night or ordering clothes online.

Let’s pin down some definitions

Before we jump into all of the details, let’s review some information about the sharing economy and sustainability.

The sharing economy is the practice of peer-to-peer sharing of resources and services. Instead of booking your next stay with a hotel, for instance, you might rely on the sharing economy to connect you with a family renting out their spare room. Other examples might include ridesharing, peer-to-peer lending, online platforms for buying second-hand clothes, and freelancing websites.

You’re probably familiar with the big names of the sharing economy: Airbnb, Zoom2U, GumTree, Mad Paws, and the list goes on. These companies have become wildly popular in the last ten years, to the point that many of us are active participants in the sharing economy on a daily basis. You can learn more about how the sharing economy works in our recent article!

So, how does any of this tie into sustainability? Well, sustainability is all about making smart decisions today so that future generations don’t have to clean up our messes, right? At least, that’s the gist of the United Nations definition of sustainability, which states, officially, that, “humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Things like recycling, reducing waste, reusing our materials, and being conservative with our resources are all ways that we can practice sustainability. And the idea behind the sharing economy is exactly that: share resources in a way that promotes conservation and the preservation of resources.

Did we lose you? Here, let’s put it another way. Consider one of the first companies of the sharing economy: eBay. The idea behind eBay was basically to provide a platform for the owners of secondhand goods to sell them online. Instead of purchasing brand new shoes or electronics or even auto parts, you could buy used items from someone who was willing to part with them. And what’s the impact of that? Less items thrown out in the bin, and less demand for new products. Consumers obviously loved the idea of spending less for these gently used items, sellers could make easy money from things they were considering throwing out anyway, and everybody wins.

Now, some have pointed out ways that eBay could be more sustainable.After all, eBay sellers have to ship their products to their buyers, expending resources on packaging and fuel along the way. There’s also the cost of keeping the website up and running - that requires quite a bit of energy.

As with everything, there’s a little give and take. And, some companies are better than others when it comes to their environmental impact. But, If sharing economy companies like eBay make conscious decisions about how eco friendly their business can be, we’ll all be the better for it. 

One thing is for certain. These sharing economy companies are the next big step in sustainability. And, we’re excited to tell you about how they’re changing the way we all think about sustainability. From here, we’re going to break down some of the areas where the sharing economy can really make a difference and give you our top recommendations for eco friendly companies. 

Let’s talk materials and resources

We wanted to start with one of the more tangible ways that the sharing economy is eco friendly - materials and resources. 

For many years, we all lived in a culture of one-use items. Microwave dinners, plastic grocery bags, disposable coffee cups. But in the last few years, we’ve become more aware of how these items impact the environment, and many of us have changed our habits to reduce the materials we use. Many businesses are jumping in, too. A quick search of the cafes in your local neighbourhood will give you an idea of where you can get discounts for bringing in your own coffee cups. And, there are even some supermarkets that will allow you to bring in empty containers to reduce packaging and waste. 

And, whether you’ve considered it or not, the sharing economy does something similar. Let’s talk about the fashion company, The Volte. They are a clothing lending company that allows people all over Australia to rent dresses or outfits that they would probably only wear a handful of times anyway.

It’s pretty genius. Think about all of the items of clothing in your closet that you spent a ton of money on only to store away after the party was over. You might try to wear that bridesmaids dress a couple more times after the wedding, or cycle through your professional outfits so that you don’t feel that you’re wearing the same suit for every big meeting. But overall, you’re not wearing those clothes enough to justify the price or the materials or the labour used to make them. And at the end of the day, that outfit just might end up in a landfill.

With the Volte, though, you can stop feeling bad about buying clothing that you’ll only wear a couple of times, because when you’re done with it, someone else in Australia will use it! You can find dresses for cocktail parties, weddings, work functions or any other event where you might need to dress up. Then, when the party is over, you’ll return the dress so that someone else can use it. 

And yes, we can all agree it’s not a perfect system. The Volte has to use materials for packing, dry cleaning the outfits has an environmental impact, and there’s the carbon footprint from shipping to consider. But when you think about reducing the demand for fast fashion clothing through a system that shares outfits over and over, the choice is clear.

To be sure, the Volte isn’t the only sharing economy business that is helping to reduce waste and lower demand for new products.

If you’re looking for power tools, for instance, you might check out ToolMates. This sharing economy company connects you with the tools, big or small, that you need for a one-time project. Instead of buying those expensive tools that will just sit in your garage after you’ve used them, you can use them for as long as you need and then return them. It lowers the demand for new tools that are bulky and resources heavy. 

Kindershare is similar to ToolMates, allowing you to borrow baby gear. Baby items are expensive and have a short lifespan in most family homes - the baby outgrows their pram and it’s off to the landfill. But with Kindershare, families can share those baby items to save money while keeping those items out of landfills. 

Bountye is another sharing economy company with recycling in mind. With Bountye, you can browse hundreds of second-hand items online. As they point out, what inspired them to get started was the fact that 85% of textiles end up in a landfill. Now, without having to spend time and energy (and fuel) going to a brick-and-mortar second-hand store, you can buy great used items and keep them from ending up in a landfill.  

There are plenty of platforms that will match you with any item you need: from home appliances to books to video games and more.  By renting these items from an owner instead of buying it new, you’re choosing environmental sustainability.  

Energy

When it comes to energy, we’re all trying to figure out ways to reduce and switch over to renewable sources. There’s a whole industry now, for instance, to create environmentally friendly houses and environmentally friendly cars. With the sharing economy, we can also reduce the amount of energy we use daily. And we may even be able to support the search for better energy alternatives, too. 

Let’s talk first about reducing our energy use through sharing economy businesses. Here at Spacer, for instance, love the fact that we can say that sharing space helps us all be more responsible energy users. How do we do that? 

Well, imagine you have a spare bedroom in your house that isn’t being used for anything. Maybe you’ve got a couple of boxes in there, but it’s mostly empty space. And, if you have climate control in your home, you’re essentially paying to maintain an empty room. That’s not a great use of energy, right?

Now, consider that someone else in your neighbourhood is paying to store their items in a climate-controlled storage facility. The only purpose of that storage facility is to provide a space for people’s items, and they’re using air conditioning, humidity control, and lighting to operate that space. It also doesn’t seem like a good use of energy to us.

If you could open up your spare room to that renter, we could all reduce our reliance on those energy-intensive facilities. You wouldn’t have to change a thing about your home, you would just be opening your spare room to someone with a couple of extra boxes. And, you’ll even get money out of it. 

This idea can be applied, not only to storage space, but to parking spaces as well. We’ve found that Australia has an excess of privately owned parking spaces that are not being used efficiently. According to a 2018 study in Melbourne, there is about 40% more residential parking spaces than privately owned vehicles. What that means is that there are parking spaces in many areas of the city that are sitting vacant while commercial parking lots fill up. 

Imagine the amount of energy we could save by offering people the opportunity to park in a private driveway or garage instead of a parking garage. You might be asking yourself how that’s more environmentally sustainable than parking in a dedicated carpark. Well, consider the amount of energy needed to maintain a car park. The electricity used for lighting, elevators, boom gates, and ticketing booths can take a huge environmental toll. 

The other issue with car parks is that they are not often friendly for hybrid or electric cars. If you have an electric car, you may well find yourself driving around trying to find a car park with available charging stations, which means more energy spent and more frustration for you. The good news is, if you’ve ever had to worry about finding a charging station or have even hesitated to buy an electric car because you worried about a sparsity of charging stations, the sharing economy is here to help you out. But with more and more parking owners are making their spaces available on Spacer with electric charging, you’ll be able to find more parking convenient parking options for your hybrid or electric car.

There are other ways to save energy by using the sharing economy, too. By opting to stay in someone’s home through Airbnb instead of in a hotel, you can lower energy consumption. Take it even one step further by looking for environmentally friendly houses. Indeed, ecotourism has become a huge trend, because the sharing economy has allowed owners of environmentally friendly houses to rent out their space to others who care about sustainability. 

We could go on and on about how sharing economy companies are saving energy, but we’ll touch on just one more that we can’t help but share: Mad Paws. This is a service sharing platform that connects pet owners with dog walkers and pet sitters in every major city in Australia. 

Now, how does this save energy? Well, just like our previous examples, the opportunity to house a pet in someone’s home instead of a dedicated facility can help to reduce energy usage. If your neighbour is a Pet Sitter on Mad Paws, you’ll feel much better about leaving your dog at their house where they won’t use any extra energy to take care of your pup instead of at a designated kennel. Pet sitting facilities require a huge amount of electricity to run their operations, especially when it comes to climate control. Many kennels are so full, that they absolutely have to keep their temperatures steady to prevent illness and discomfort for the animals. By opting for Mad Paws,on the other hand, not only will your pooch be much happier to have the one-on-one care of a pet sitter, but you’ll be choosing the eco friendly option. 

You get the pattern here. Traditionally, we relied on dedicated facilities for things like storage, parking, pet sitting and more. These structures require a lot of energy and resources to build, and they continue to drain energy to be maintained. There’s climate control, lighting, and other operations that require a lot of electricity. 

With the sharing economy, we can reduce the demand for these kinds of structures by opening up our spaces and our services to our sustainability minded neighbours. Storing a couple of boxes in that spare room, opening up your garage for someone’s car, or even welcoming a pup into your home for the night don’t require extra energy usage. It’s just one of the ways the sharing economy allows us all to be actively engaged in environmental sustainability.

Use of fuel and carbon footprints

So reducing materials, resources and energy are all great ways that the sharing economy is leading the way in sustainability, but how about things like carbon footprints?

If you’re not familiar with carbon footprints, the idea is to figure out just how big of an impact each individual or individual company has on the environment based on their carbon emissions. If you’re a person who drives a big car and uses a lot of one-use plastic products and flies abroad every other month, you likely have a pretty large carbon footprints. Someone who composts and rides a bike to work every day is going to have a smaller carbon footprint.

If you think about your own carbon footprint, where might you fall on this spectrum? Maybe you drive a not-so-fuel efficient car but you also make it a point to recycle everything. Or maybe you do a million eco friendly things but you just can’t help but take a flight to visit your family from time to time. And, hey, no judgements here. Most of us fall somewhere in between those extremes. You can figure out your unique footprint with the helpful carbon calculator by Carbon Neutral

The thing to remember here is that no matter what your current carbon footprint is, there are ways that you can lower it. Perhaps seeing your carbon footprint will inspire you to switch to public transportation or schedule a meat-free meal once a week. These little steps can help you make strides in lowering your carbon footprint. And again, the sharing economy is here to help us take our own commitment to environmental sustainability even further. Let’s talk about a few ways that we can shrink that carbon footprint with the sharing economy.

Consider the sharing economy company Car Next Door. It’s a peer-to-peer car sharing app that allows you to rent a car for a day or a couple of hours. They have so many listings on their site that you should be able to find a car right in your neighbourhood so that you don’t have to waste more fuel by taking a rideshare to the car’s location. Instead, simply walk over to the car that you’re going to rent, use it for as long as you need, and return the keys when you’re done. It’s easy to use and really convenient. 

This is a great carbon-reduction opportunity. Many of us are afraid that without a car, life will be so much more difficult. But once we have the car, we rely on it for much more than we actually need it for. Think, for instance, about how much you can reduce your carbon footprint by forgoing the car, riding your bike to work, and renting only when you need to buy groceries or pick up a package. You’d be surprised at how you can actually live quite happily without a car when there’s an easy-to-use app like Car Next Door for when you do need a set of wheels. 

According to Car Next Door, every one of the cars that they list on their site removes up to 10 cars from the road. That’s astounding considering how much it can help to reduce carbon emissions. 

Rideshares, of course, are another great way to take extra cars off the road. Like Car Next Door, rideshare apps lower the demand for every person to own a car. Plus, with options to pool our rides within the ridesharing community, we can further save money and help save the environment. 

Now, how does dog walking fit in here? It turns out Mad Paws not only helps us to reduce energy usage, but it can also help us lower our carbon use too. Because, instead of driving home on your lunch break everyday to give your pups a potty break, you can have someone in your neighbourhood take care of it for you! Another option? Take your doggo to a pet sitter close to your work. That way, your dog can a wonderful day of playing and cuddles with a pet sitter, and then you can hop over on your lunch break to take them for a quick walk. A better deal for your pup and a better deal for the environment. 

If you can believe it, we have even more examples of how the sharing economy can help you save on your fuel costs. More and more companies are seeing the value of allowing their employees to work remotely, which is great for the environment by getting more people off the road for that morning commute. But, if you still need a place to work, hold meetings, and other office tasks, there’s Rubberdesk. This is a peer-to-peer office sharing platform that allows you to rent space in offices near your home. That way, even if you do need to work in an office outside of home, you don’t have to waste fuel driving all the way into the city centre. 

Before we move on from cars, there’s one more thing to consider, here: parking. Remember back to when we said that there are more residential parking spaces in Melbourne than privately owned cars? Parking in those spots instead of commercial car parks isn’t just a more affordable option, it’s also more eco friendly. If you live outside of a major city in Australia, you could reduce your carbon footprint by parking in a residential area and taking public transport into the city. Instead of driving around in CBD looking for a parking spot, there are hundreds of parking spaces in privately owned properties close to public transit. You’ll save money and the environment by opting for these parking alternatives. Just take a look at Spacer in your area to learn more about these eco friendly parking options. 

Another sharing economy company we want to highlight here is Camplify. The idea behind this platform is that you can rent directly from an owner of a caravan or RV in your area. Instead of spending a whole lot of money to rent from a traditional company, or spending even more to purchase a motorhome of your own, Camplify allows you to rent one just like you would a car. 

One of the benefits of this business, of course, is that less people will be motivated to buy new motorhomes, thus reducing waste and materials. That will help to reduce the amount of caravans just sitting in one of those energy-intensive storage facilities for most of the year. 

The other advantage of a company like Camplify is that it encourages Australians to explore their local areas for their next vacation. Air travel is a huge source of carbon emissions, so while it’s amazing to be able to take that trip to Europe, it’s important to consider that it’s not the most eco friendly trip you can take. According to the UK-based news source, the Guardian, a single flight from London to Perth can emit more carbon than citizens in many countries - like Guatemala, Morocco, and India - will emit in an entire year. In total, a flight of that distance can emit about 3,152kg of CO2 per passenger. 

The International Civil Aviation Organization calculates that even the short flight from Sydney to Melbourne can emit about 70kg of CO2 per person. If you’re planning a holiday with a family of four, your carbon emissions could be about 560kg of CO2. 

So whatever we can do to discourage air travel (especially international air travel) in favour of local adventures can go a long way towards environmental sustainability. If you were to do the same trip - Sydney to Melbourne - in a caravan, your carbon emissions will be closer to around 200kg of CO2. A family of four, then, would only be contributing about 50kg of CO2 per person.

Lowering our carbon emissions is really tricky, but with the sharing economy, we can start to make strides in reducing our footprint. By sharing cars and caravans and encouraging ourselves and our loved ones not to rely so heavily on the forms of travel we’ve grown accustomed to, we’ll create a world with more sustainability built in.     

Giving back

In addition to all the ways that the sharing economy is helping us to make the world a better place, some of those companies are doing their part to be more eco friendly, too.

Take Car Next Door, the car sharing platform. This sharing economy company wasn’t satisfied with simply taking a ton of cars off the road. They also contribute to Greenfleet, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to environmental sustainability. Car Next Door helps Greenfleet plant trees - more than 8.6 million native trees to be exact - across Australia. 

Another of Car Next Doors commitments is to make electric and hybrid cars more readily available on their site. Instead of renting a car with a large carbon footprint, they want to make sure their clients are able to borrow cars that are good for the environment. 

If you’re curious about whether your favourite sharing economy company is giving back to the environment, make sure to reach out! They’ll probably love to tell you about their efforts to be more environmentally sustainable, whether it’s by donating to environmental not-for-profits or jumpstarting a recycling program in their company.

Some things we hope to see in the near future

As you’ve been reading about how the sharing economy can carry the torch for environmental sustainability, you might have realised there are some ways that these companies can do better. Because while it’s amazing to be able to share resources, lower the demand for new materials, and reduce our carbon footprint and energy use, there’s still a long way to go. 

Here are a few of the changes we hope to see in the coming years so that we can all continue the trend of environmental sustainability:

  • Make packaging more environmentally friendly by using recycled materials

  • Make sure that company offices are energy efficient and more reliant on renewable energy sources

  • Create more opportunities for jobs to take place remotely to reduce fuel use

  • Recycling programs and reduction of waste

  • Encourage corporate teams to engage in sustainability projects

  • Donate a portion of profits to organisations committed to environmental sustainability 

  • Use their platforms to promote sustainable practices and encourage their customers to follow their lead 

The sharing economy has such an incredible opportunity to lead the next steps in sustainability. Sustainability through sharing of resources and services is already built into their business models. And by making these additional small changes, they can really make an impact on the environment. 

The Sharing economy is the next step in sustainability.

In this article, we covered a lot of ground! We hope that you have a better idea of exactly how the sharing economy has the potential to move the world in a better direction when it comes to environmental sustainability.

Here’s a summary of the sharing economy businesses mentioned here and how they are making eco friendly waves.

Mad Paws

This pet sitting and dog walking platform saves energy by opting for home-based care instead of energy-intensive kennels. You can also save on fuel costs by having a dog walker in you area walk your pup, saving you a drive home in the middle of the day to take the dog out. Another way to save fuel would be to drop your pup off at a pet sitter close to your work for some lunch-break cuddles without having to drive home.

Spacer

We connect space owners with space seekers to make sure that we’re all using our resources more responsibly. Instead of storing a car in a car park or storing boxes and furniture in a storage facility, you can book a space in someone’s home. No extra energy used for climate control, and no extra materials used to construct huge commercial storage centres. 

We’re also encouraging our Hosts to provide more hybrid-friendly parking options.

The Volte

This sharing economy company allows you to rent high-end fashion to counter the negative environmental impacts of fast fashion. For your next party or even, don’t buy a new dress or outfit; instead, rent one with the Volte. 

Bountye

Second-hand shopping has never been easier than with Bountye. Instead of going out of your way to go to a shop, simply browse listings online and give these previously-owned items a new home. This sharing economy company reduces the demand for new materials and keeps perfectly good items out of landfills. 

Car Next Door

We all want to reduce our carbon footprint, but daily life often seems impossible without a car. With Car Next Door, we can get more cars off the road without giving up the convenience of having a car when we really need it.

Car Next Door goes above and beyond when it comes to environmental responsibility. They partner with eco friendly not-for-profits and are working hard to replace fuel inefficient cars with hybrids and fully electric cars. 

Camplify

This is a peer-to-peer caravan rental service. If you’ve ever wanted to go on a road trip but didn’t want to buy a brand new camper, this is the platform you’ve been waiting for. By allowing travelers to share caravans, Camplify lowers the demand for new manufacturing.

Plus, encouraging people to travel with four wheels on the ground is great for the environment. Air travel is a huge contributor of carbon emissions, especially when we fly outside of Australia. Instead, Camplify makes Australians excited about exploring the beauty in our own backyards. 

Rubberdesk

More and more people are working remotely these days, which encourages sustainability in itself. But by opening up more spaces to be shared, Rubberdesk allows us to be more responsible about our use of resources. Instead of us all staying at home, using our own air conditioning, and our own lights, and our own WiFi, we can gather in a shared space nearby to help save the environment. Because these shared spaces are offered all over, you won’t have to worry about increasing your carbon footprint by driving out of your way to get to your Rubberdesk. 

Kindershare

If you have a small child at home, you probably know that baby items are not very environmentally sustainable. Kids grow out of their car seats, prams, baby carriers and high chairs, which could very well end up in a landfill only a few months after you buy it. 

With Kindershare, you can rent these items on a weekly basis to keep them from being thrown out. 

ToolMates

Similar to Kindershare, ToolMates allows you to rent tools and other machinery instead of buying it new. This is perfect for anyone who is working on a temporary project or only needs that power drill for a couple of days. You can keep the demand for new tools down with ToolMates, and you can feel better about owning that toolset that’s been sitting on your shelf unused for too long. 

There’s more to explore

The more that you engage in the sharing economy, the more you notice how these companies are at the forefront of the sustainability movement. By using these companies, we are all changing our mindsets to focus more on community ownership. We can stop buying items that we’ll only use a couple of times. We can share space and cars and even caravans to keep perfectly good items out of landfills. We can maximize the spaces we have instead of constructing new ones. And we can be more responsible about our carbon emissions and energy use by getting cars off the road and vacationing locally and even something as simple as having our neighbour take out the doggo. 

All because of peer-to-peer sharing economy platforms that are making environmental sustainability a little more accessible to us all.

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