There’s a fascinating new movement afoot – one that could ultimately create a wholesale change in how we, as consumers, get what we want. It’s a business model being called “collaborative consumption” by the academics studying its every move, and it’s also being heralded as a champion of the green movement. Here’s what it the idea boils down to: creating online frameworks that allow people to share, rent and swap what they already own directly with other consumers. The possibilities of these person-to-person transactions are endless – from renting a house in San Francisco to swapping boxes of children’s clothes.
Just think of all the things that are sitting around your house that someone else would like to use. It could be as small as a box set of “Sex and the City” DVDs or as big as your actual house. New Internet-based companies are changing how we think of these assets and how we can collaborate with others to get the most out of these items instead of always buying new, new, new.
I’ll start with some of the biggest examples of how this new collaborative consumption model works. If there’s a big event coming to your city, you might want to rent out your apartment or home. Or, you may have a vacation house that is vacant for much of the year. AirBnB.com is an easy-to-use hub for linking homeowners with travelers who want anything from a one night getaway in New York City to a month stay in a mountain cabin.
The same goes for the car you own. RelayRides.com hooks up drivers in need with car owners. You can see what’s available where you are and check out the price per hour, day and week.
Now, back to those “Sex and the City” DVDs. Or, what about those games you no longer play, or that designer purse that’s gathering dust in the closet? Swap.com is one place to go to swap what you don’t want for something you do. Your options are absolutely endless. And, anyone with children knows just how quickly kids outgrow clothes. ThredUp.com lets you earn credits for gently used clothing you no longer need. Then, use those credits to shop for the children’s clothing you do want.
These new business models also allow imaginations to run wild. For instance, one new online startup, Yards to Gardens, allows gardeners and people with available land to connect and begin growing foods and flowers. There’s also a way to share gardening tools and swap seeds. Visit DoYourPart.com/ Columns for a list of swap, share, and rental sites.