Collaborative consumption, defined by Wikipedia as “an economic model based on sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting access to products as opposed to ownership”, provides an opportunity to enhance sustainability in Africa. Collaborative consumption is disrupting old business models in Europe and North America – reinventing both what and how people consume. In 2010 it was named one of TIME Magazine’s 10 ideas that will change the world.
In a sense there’s nothing new about collaborative consumption, as people have been sharing, swopping, and trading products and services since ancient times. However, with advances in digital technology together with increasing interest in sustainable living and a desire to re-connect with communities and neighbourhoods – collaborative consumption is fast becoming a zeitgeist of the new digital, globally connected and hyper-local urban age. There are already many working examples of collaborative consumption – including bike sharing, book swapping, car sharing, car pooling, crowd funding, garden sharing, co-working, local exchange trading systems and seed swaps.
The sustainability benefits associated with collaborative consumption include the fact that fewer products overall are consumed and that efficient resource use is maximised.
The video below by Nesta investigates the potential of collaborative consumption to reinvent public services.
Collaborative consumption: product and service systems
Collaborative consumption product and service systems are based on users paying for the benefit of using a product without needing to actually own the product. For example ZipCar, which provides members the ability to access and use cars as and when they need to (whilst also contributing towards decreased congestion and pollution), offers members access to thousands of cars around the world, with gas and insurance included. Online second hand clothing marketplaces such as Stillwhite allow people to buy and sell second hand or used clothing items; peer-to-peer rental systems like OpenShed offers an online platform for renting equipment from tools to musical instruments; and carpooling sites like Bestliftclub in South Africa offer an online platform to connect people offering and looking for ride-shares.
Collaborative consumption: Redistribution markets
Redistribution markets are where used or pre-owned goods are re-distributed from where they are not needed to somewhere or someone where they are. Examples of large online marketplaces for used goods include Craiglist, eBay and Gumtree. Other examples are clothing swaps like swishing parties, or swops shops like the Recycle Swop Shop in Hermanus.
Collaborative consumption: Collaborative lifestyles
Collaborative lifestyles is about people with similar interests coming together to share and exchange less tangible assets such as time, space, skills, and money. Examples include collaborative workspaces like the Hub or Deskwanted; peer-to-peer travel networks like Couchsurfing and Airbnb; and social food networks like EatWithMe.
Source and graphic: Collaborative Consumption